Dolce Vita Italian Grocer and Gelato

Good eating in the Valley of the Sun
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BillBuitenhuys
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6 years ago

Hidden gem? It could very well be.

This little shop is tucked away in the Broadway Palms shopping center in east Mesa. The shop is split in half with one side serving up delightful scoops of gelato and the other side hosting a deli case of Italian cured meats and cheeses along with shelves of assorted Italian staples ranging from tuna in oil to Brioschi. The owner also has a few selections of fresh frozen pasta in a freezer and a couple of fresh pastries. Today he had cavatelli, pappardelle, lasagna sheets, spinach/ricotta ravioli, and pumpkin/mascarpone ravioli.

They serve lunch and dinner daily with a small menu of various antipasti plates, sandwiches, and pastas.
Today I had fresh made cavatelli with bolognese ($12)and my dining buddy had the spinach ricotta ravioli with sage butter sauce ($13). I'd go back for these pastas and I really want to taste through the menu. Nothing overly adventurous but solid dishes.

We tasted through a bunch of the cured meats including salami Alpina (dry cured prosciutto from the owners home town of Bergamo in the Italian Alps), sopressata calabrese, cacciattorini toscana, salami calabrese. Loved all of them and bought a few of them. Also has guanciale, mortadella, and lots of formaggio.

I also brought home a pound of spinach ravioli and had them for dinner tonight with a butter/sage sauce and a side of rabe. Delicious.

The owner is pretty disappointed with all the Italian restaurants and shops he's been to in the valley with the exception of Andreoli's ("the only other authentic Italian shop that is here"). Don't get him started on DeFalco's.

I've now been to the shop three times (twice for gelato, once for lunch) and each time our group were the only people in the shop. Not a good sign for longevity.

Dolce Vita Italian Grocer
5251 E. Brown Rd #103
Mesa, Arizona 85205

[Note: Menu below is not the full menu, just the pasta portion which is not on the Dolce Vita website. -Mod]
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Skillet Doux
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6 years ago

BillBuitenhuys wrote:Also has guanciale...
If it isn't smoked, I'm going to kiss you tomorrow, Bill. Fair warning.
BillBuitenhuys wrote:The owner is pretty disappointed with all the Italian restaurants and shops he's been to in the valley with the exception of Andreoli's ("the only other authentic Italian shop that is here"). Don't get him started on DeFalco's.
That's all I needed to hear :-)

MyLifeOnVacatio mentioned them in another thread... I know she's a big fan, too. I've been meaning to get there. Thanks for the nudge.
Dominic Armato
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BillBuitenhuys
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6 years ago

Skillet Doux wrote:If it isn't smoked, I'm going to kiss you tomorrow, Bill. Fair warning.
Be still my beating heart. :)
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Skillet Doux
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6 years ago

You've got a kiss coming your way, Bill.

Will report later :-)
Dominic Armato
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Lunchbox
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6 years ago

Great lunch today! I wish we had more people to try a few more dishes... I want to try their meat sauce. I can almost guarantee this will be a FF lunch spot soon.

Dom will post pix but I'll start with my standouts...

We started with the cheese plate. A healthy assortment of 7 or 8 cheeses served with slices of a baguette from France. (The bread was good. I asked where he got it, he matter of factly said "France." Then he showed me the French tags to prove it. I believed him before he showed me. :D) The Doux Drop ate a good portion of cheese on the plate. Our sticky toddler is growing up... :lol: The gorgonzola with honey was amazing as were the three pecorinos of different ages... This is a great starter, especially if you have enough people to share it with.

My favorite dish of the day was the seasonal pumpkin/mascarpone ravioli in a butter sauce... (Sir Derring-Doux gobbled up the ravioli and proclaimed that he was saving one as the last thing he wanted to eat at his lunch today... He cracked and had gelato...) The owner explained that normally the cookies that are crumbled on top are normally put inside the ravioli, either way this was a winner.

We also had a sandwich with speck which was good. (Dom ordered it so I can't remember which one it was.) It was a solid sandwich and if I was close I would lunch there twice a week and just order a sandwich. But the pastas were the highlights today. The spinach ravioli with the butter/sage sauce was spot on. The pastas were perfectly cooked with the right amount of texture.

And yes they have proper guanciale! The owner looked puzzled as Dom asked about it. He even called him "weird" if I remember correctly. Dom took a big hunk home for dinner tonight so I'm sure he's in the kitchen right now which is why we don't have pictures yet...

Dom was able to get some good pix of the menu and I hope it encourages people try this place out. As Bill pointed out, there wasn't a lot of activity during his lunch hour and we found a similar situation at our lunch today. There was only one other table eating. I know it's out of the way for a lot of people but this is one of those places we need to support.
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BarbaraToombs
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6 years ago

Ugh! So sorry I couldn't make it! Sounds amazing!!
Nam
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6 years ago

I've been here about half a dozen times for gelato/lunch, and can say in general that their non-fruit dominant gelato is uncompromisingly delicious, standouts being the tiramisu, nutella, amaretto, creme brulee. Their fruit-centric gelato is only good if you really really like the base flavor, with their lemon being way too tart, the prickly pear being almost bubble gummy in flavor and flat out disliked, with the strawberry and coconut the only ones so far that are very good but can be surpassed elsewhere.

I've also had the cavatelli w/bolognese sauce, and appreciated the texture but thought the sauce was a little flat. I sampled some of my fiancee's spinach ravioli w/marinara sauce and was similarly underwhelmed, but happy to continue exploring. So far I like Alessia's next door better for pasta, but wholeheartedly agree that Dolce Vita deserves plenty of support!
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BillBuitenhuys
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6 years ago

Skillet Doux wrote:You've got a kiss coming your way, Bill.

Will report later :-)
WooHooo! Wait, what? :o
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Skillet Doux
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6 years ago

I love this place! What a great little joint!
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Piatto Formaggi
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This was hitting the table just as the Doux Deux and I walked in the door, and I feel bad because I think the Doux Drop polished off about half of Lunchbox's cheese. This was a really, really nice cheese plate. Starting at 12 and working clockwise, the first was (I think) a Castelrosso, followed by three types of pecorino moving from oldest to youngest, the last of which was just three months old, very smooth and almost creamy. At 7:00 is a slice of smoked scamorza, followed by asiago. And in the center, a spicy goat milk gorgonzola with acacia honey that was so completely awesome. I was really impressed by the plate... a very nice selection. It came with a couple small crocks of some kind of marmellata, but I was enjoying the cheeses so much on their own that I don't think I even dipped into them.

In my haste to taste it, I forgot to get a photo of the sandwich, but it was a good one with speck, a little bit of some kind of cheese, lettuce, olive oil... probably something else I'm forgetting. It's bordering on dainty, but the cuts are very high quality and pack a lot of flavor so this wasn't an issue for me. Good stuff.
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Ravioli Ricotta e Spinaci
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The ravioli are made in-house and available frozen. And they're pretty darn good. Very simple and delicious stuff here, delicate but still with some bite, a simple ricotta and spinach filling, swimming in sage butter.
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Ravioli di Zucca
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Yowza. This stuff was intense. I wish I'd gotten a photo of the filling. The filling is really creamy, made with pumpkin and mascarpone, and it's fairly sweet to boot, topped with grated amaretti cookies. They're dangerously tasty.
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Salumi
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We thought we were done, but he brought out a little salumi for us to sample as well. Hiding in the back is a cacciatorini, on the right was some type of salami made with prosciutto, something spicy and Calabrese sitting up front, and I don't recall what's on the left. Not as impressive as the cheeses, I thought, but still a nice selection. I'm not a fan of the bread. The joke that Lunchbox isn't revealing is that it's made by a place called France Bakery. And it's fine, but when it comes to salumi, I want something with some oomph. This, to me, is far better suited to, say, banh mi or po' boys. But it's light and fresh and crisp, which gives it a leg up on most places, even if it isn't to my tastes in this context.

I got some photos of the menu, but annoyance, I somehow missed the sandwiches page. So the PDF below is incomplete. There's a page with about a dozen sandwiches as well. If any of the Foodnik Friday regulars get over there before I do, if you can snag that page, I'll scan and add it to the PDF.
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Gelato
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Ooooo... good stuff. I'm of two minds on the gelato. I'm pretty sure these are all premade bases from Italy, which means they vary in quality. The chocolate was nice and deep, the pistachio and nocciola a touch artificial tasting, I thought, but man, I love the texture, really dense and creamy... crazy low overrun. I'm not surprised, as Nam suggests, that it's a bit of a hit and miss affair. It might take a little trial and error, but the hits are goooooood.

I spent a good long time shopping and chatting with the fellow. The place doesn't have a huge selection, but it's really nicely curated. The meat and cheese case items I tasted were all extremely good, and the grocery has a nice mix of staples and more esoteric specialty items. He even turned me onto an olive oil (Giachi Allegretto) which just destroyed my current everyday oil in a home-administered head to head and at $17/liter is a nice price for an everyday workhorse EVOO. I picked up some tomatoes, some pasta, a couple of cheeses (two breeds of fabulous pecorino), two links of the cacciatorini we had on the salumi board, and, of course, the guanciale.
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Guanciale
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Oooooooh, yeah, that's the stuff. I'll put up a post about cooking with it in a bit. He did, in fact, call me weird, but I think that may have been a quirk of translation and what he was thinking was "unusual." In asking about the guanciale, he said I was "one in a thousand" and was a little frustrated that people weren't buying it. It's expensive, at $35/pound, but man, it's so worth it. Nine bucks gets you enough guanciale for a pound of Bucatini all'Amatriciana. I don't think that's crazy, particularly given that it isn't domestic. As he said, importing prosciutto isn't too bad -- people know it and it's imported in huge quantities. Guanciale, not so much, so it's pricey to bring in. I took a whole jowl -- the largest one he had -- which weighed in at just over a pound. I get the impression that he'd really love to keep offering it, but he's thinking about calling it quits other than special orders just because it isn't moving. I'm hoping we can do something about that :-) But if not, he said he could do a special order for as few as 3-4 jowls. I don't imagine it'll be hard to scrape together enough interested folks here for that. Heck, I could almost take that myself. I used to average half a pound a week, and it stores extremely well (particularly with a vacuum sealer!).

I don't mean to mislead... this place isn't as deep or as established or as serious in the prepared food department as a place like Andreoli. But the guy running the place clearly knows his stuff, he's put together a really nice little selection of items, he makes some simple, tasty food that he can serve from behind a deli counter, and it's just so nice to talk to somebody who so clearly knows and appreciates good product. I'm with you guys... I really hope he gets the support he needs out there, because this is a little gem.
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Dominic Armato
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MyLifeOnVacatio
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6 years ago

We must have been to an early iteration of lunch when we went, there were sandwiches only and no pasta. The bread at that time was from a place with an Italian name (wish I could remember). However, now my sights are set on the cavatelli. And the ravioli. And the cheese plate. And.... ;)
katfishkh
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6 years ago

Now singing "Volare", substituting Guanciale for the volare. Great find!
Do not resist temptation, you may not get another chance.
themis
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6 years ago

Is this place associated with the Magliozzis, who do Roma Cafe in Mesa?
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BillBuitenhuys
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6 years ago

Nice reports Zach and Dom!
I think cheese and meat plates might be in my regular weekday lunch rotation now. Those look super.

I'll certainly pick up some guanciale too, particularly if he is considering phasing it out.
Nice find on the oil. Have to try that too.
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golbsalt
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6 years ago

All I can say is THANK YOU!!!

Gonna make sure I get some guanciale and EVOO. I love this board!!!
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Skillet Doux
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6 years ago

Oh! Oh! Oh!

I can't believe I forgot to mention!

He said he'll order Lardo di Colonnata for us. So, let's... um... do that, yes?
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ScottofStrand
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6 years ago

Oh yeah, this is the good stuff. And in my own backyard! Thanks so much for posting about it, I never would have found out about it otherwise. Walter(or however he pronounces his name) is a total riot. I told him how excellent the sandwich was and he said "NO.. not excellent. Just normal, I assure you. Everyone is just used to bad food, and this is what normal is supposed to be." He was awesome. Brought out some complimentary grape must vinegar and bread with the "real deal" truffle oil. I've just had a couple sandwiches and some Bresaola so far, but I can tell this is going to be one of my new weekly stops.
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Skillet Doux
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6 years ago

ScottofStrand wrote:"...Everyone is just used to bad food, and this is what normal is supposed to be."
I need to have this framed.
Dominic Armato
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Skillet Doux
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6 years ago

Dominic Armato
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BillBuitenhuys
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6 years ago

Hadn't realized this was a BYOB!

Lining up some Italian Alps wine for a dinner visit.
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BillBuitenhuys
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6 years ago

Went for lunch again today. Had a wonderful arrancino filled with ragu, the cheese platter with honey and marmalade, and ricotta/spinach ravioli.

As I was checking out I chatted with Walter about lardo (which is on order) when he says "I have porchetta. Not the Roman kind that is over powered by so many herbs you can't taste the fat.". Guess what I'm having for dinner.
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