There are two things that Miami Beach seems to have a lot of these days: constant change and Italian restaurants. Many Miami natives sometimes wonder whatever happened to the quirky SoBe they knew back when Gianni Versace held court there, and it seems as if for the non Miami Beach resident, every subsequent visit to the southern reaches of Collins Avenue reveals more change, more commercialization, and a sense of frustration. As much as we may not like to hear it, there seems to be no going back to the 90s for Miami Beach, and the few remnants of 20th century seem to get polished up and renovated one by one almost every day. Then there are the denizens of Italian restaurants dotting almost every imaginable storefront and hotel lobby, apparently making South Beach a chic, sexy little Italy of the 21st century. There are, obviously, a great deal of bad restaurants, a great many more mediocre ones, but still enough fantastic Italian restaurants to warrant at least an occasional visit for any foodie. A recent dinner at Dolce in the newly renovated Gale South Beach showed that all the change on SoBe can actually be a good thing and that Miami Beach continues to be a destination for some of the best Italian fare.
Dolce opened its doors to the public this past past Friday, January 18th, inside the Gale South Beach hotel. Facing the more imposing Delano, the boutique hotel recently received a major facelift while still retaining its original Art Deco character. An intimate patio that overlooks Collins Avenue is a great way to people watch and enjoy South Florida’s mild winter, but Dolce’s second level dining room, offering a contemporary take on a speakeasy vibe, is the true destination when it comes to ambiance at Gale South Beach. Diners feel like they are being taken to a hip, secret lair upon being seated, and the grey toned wood accents, white tablecloths, and low lighting are reminiscent of an elegance from another time period.
That same nostalgic feel is reiterated in Dolce’s cocktail menu that features a selection of classic Italian apéretifs featuring Campari, Aperol, and other bitter liqueurs meant to whet the appetite. A Negroni made with Plymouth gin, Dolin vermouth, and Campari arrived in a rocks glass with a virtual boulder of solid ice so as not to dilute the cocktail prematurely. It was one of the smoother interpretations I’ve sampled of this favorite cocktail. A classic bellini featuring prosecco and dry vermouth offered a delicate note from the addition of white peach and was not as cloyingly sweet as some other bellinis. The same bellini is reconfigured to include pear and offers a bit more sweetness. The Aperol Spritz, which includes the astringent Italian liqueur with a pleasant effervescence from sparkling wine, is also great for any lover of bitter cocktails.
Despite the semblance to a fine dining restaurant, the menu at Dolce is actually very approachable and features clean, flavorful renditions of Italian classics alongside some more innovative preparations. An appetizer of fritti misti arrived presenting a selection of delicately batter fried shrimp and calamari with a garlic aioli and a zesty tomato dipping sauce that seemed to compliment the cocktails quite well and further whet our appetite for the dishes that were to come. An interesting pairing of truffle oil and spicy salumi topped the Tartufata pizza. Notes of truffle hit the palate first and then gave way to the more assertive slices of speck and then the spicier salami.
Traditional or traditionally-inspired entrées at Dolce are truly exemplary. A dish of house-made Pappardelle Alla Bolognese offered toothsome, wide egg noodles with a braised beef, veal, and pork combination that was a lot lighter than typically expected - definitely a perfectly satisfying dish if one expects to go out after dinner. Veal Spezzatino was absolutely luminous, consisting of braised veal over perhaps one of the best risottos sampled in South Florida. The risotto was like a parmesan-infused cloud in which were suspended perfect grains of rice that retained just the slightest hint of chewiness. While I could have definitely enjoyed the risotto on its own, the addition of the braised veal in an unctuous sauce enriched with wine and containing bits of onion, carrot, and celery made for a perfect entrée and perhaps the most memorable dish of the evening.
Prior to enjoying an expertly crafted espresso, we savored a couple of simple desserts, including a tiramisù served in a martini glass that offered all the expected elements of a well-made classic. The acidity of the espresso nicely complemented the richness of the mascarpone. A budino, the Italian answer to the ever-popular flan, was perfectly executed and unexpectedly, but pleasantly, scented with honey. The texture was smooth throughout with not even a suggestion of curdling - something that is unfortunately found too often with flan - and the sugar was caramelized to just the right point to offer a slightly bitter edge to counter the sweetness of this dessert.
While there are many fabulous Italian restaurants to choose from in Miami Beach, Dolce’s intimate and elegant ambiance, as well as Chef Paolo Dorigato’s mastery of classic and straightforward Italian cuisine, make Dolce among the finer choices for Italian dining.
Located inside Gale South Beach
1690 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach 33139