Dolce means sweet in Italian, and I must say that my recent dining experience at Dolce Italian was very sweet. Dolce Italian is a new Italian restaurant connected to the Godfrey Hotel. The space is big, bright, and open with booths along the windows and free standing tables in the center of the space, with a large bar in the back. The orange furniture is modern European, with a hint of 60s style. The menu is centered around Italian classics – including pizzas and pastas, with lots of seafood.
When I invited my friend Maya for dinner, I didn’t realize that I should have invited a football team. The kitchen generously sent out nearly half the menu, and Maya and I embarrassingly barely made a dent. Two girls can only eat so much! We left with two giant to-go bags, that our men were happy to devour. Let’s jump in and talk about what we ate. This is a photo heavy post since the food was gorgeously presented and Maya and I were snap-happy. Apologies if this makes you hungry.
Usually I don’t even mention bread baskets, but this needs a moment. The fresh bread is served with whipped ricotta with honey, and it is lightyears better than the typical bread service at most Chicago eateries.
We started with cocktails. I had the Aranciata a sparkling orange cocktail with prosecco that is perfect for summertime. Maya had the Pineapple Express which was one of the most beautifully presented cocktails I have ever seen and we spent a few minutes just admiring its beauty and taking photos of it. (#bloggerproblems) The bartender was very accommodating and was able to tone down the spice level of Maya’s usually spicy drink choice.
Then we ordered some appetizers. We ordered the Dolce Meatballs, and the Summer Salad because those two things seemed to balance each other out. The salad had bibb lettuce, avocado, hearts of plan, and shaved radish with a white balsamic dressing. It was light and seasonal and certainly the healthiest thing we ate that night.
The meatballs are served over polenta and slathered in marinara. The polenta was smooth and creamy, and the meatballs themselves were very well executed. The meatballs are also available on the Spaghetti al Pomodoro if you want to turn it into a meal.
Then things got crazy. It seemed like a parade of plates was arriving at our table. The Grilled Octopus and an off-menu pizza that we nicknamed “the meat pocket pizza” came next. This pizza has spicy salami and prosciutto, and the crust is rolled up into little meat and ricotta filled pockets. It’s a grown-up version of hot pockets, but oh so much more amazing. This pizza is off the menu, but you can still order it. I can’t remember this pizza’s real name, but I am sure if you ask the for “meat pocket pizza” the waiter will know what you mean.
Octopus is tricky. If it isn’t prepared well it is rubbery, and I really dislike that. Fortunately, this octopus was soft and tender, and I genuinely enjoyed it. It was served with chickpeas, farro, tomatoes, and a pistachio vinaigrette. This is an appetizer that you could easily order as a meal.
Next the Fritto Misto arrived. Calamari, shrimp, perch, and vegetables were lightly battered and fried and served with a mustard seed aioli.
Then we moved along to pastas. We had the Ricotta Cavatelli with a lamb bolognese and broccoli rabe. The cavatelli had a lighter texture from the ricotta and the meaty lamb ragu made this a hearty meal that immediately started to fill us up. I enjoyed the pairing of the ricotta flavor with the lamb.
Maya and I got a bit adventurous and ordered the Sweet Pea Tortelli with crispy sweet breads and pea shoots in a garlic cream sauce. The waiter told us that the crispy fried sweet breads tasted like chicken, and they kinda did! To quote Maya, “I am not sure if that is reassuring, or not.” Sometimes you need to get out of your comfort zone and try something new, and it’s nice to have a friend by your side when you do. The verdict: we liked it! There was so much food that we took a little of everything home, and when Charles ate the sweet breads he thought it was chicken. The tortelli had a wonderful fresh taste – fresh pasta just tastes better and this tasted like it had just been made.
We were starting to get so full that we needed to completely skip the entrees in order to keep room for dessert. (priorities)
The tiramisu was a treat, since I had experience some disappointing tiramisu at a disappointing Italian restaurant in my hometown the week prior. This was classic tiramisu, just the way you would expect it, and I mean that in the best way possible. Some classics shouldn’t be messed with.
The Ricotta Zeppole were warm and fresh, and topped with a pistachio ice cream.
The Vanilla Meringue Cake was not one of the desserts that we ordered, but it might have been our favorite. Layers of light spongy vanilla cake were topped with a marshmallow-like meringue. This is the dessert you can still finish even though you are full, it’s light as a cloud. (photo by Maya)
Dolce Italian‘s address is 127 West Huron in River North. There are also locations in Atlanta and Miami.
Thank you to Dolce Italian for the lovely meal.