Friday, September 23, 2011

The 5 Days of DRW: La Dolce Vita

Vitello Piccata. All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.
Words like "hidden gem" and "urban oasis" get tossed around a lot when talking about La Dolce Vita, and with good reason: located in a very unlikely spot at Woodward and McNichols in Detroit's Palmer Park neighborhood, the restaurant is surrounded by a whole lot of bleak-looking nothing (plus a strip club).

If it sounds seedy ... well, a rose by any other name would surely smell as sweet as a sweaty perfume-soaked stripper, right? But LDV owner Enrico Roselli has somehow managed to create a tranquil little corner of serenity here. Natural light floods the interior of the restaurant through arched windows, reminiscent of Old World European restaurants that you'd find tucked away in the corner of the Tuscan countryside. The stamped concrete patio is enclosed in ivy-covered brick, completing the Euro-bistro motif and creating a pocket of halcyon urbanity.

Operating as La Dolce Vita since 1995, this is the kind of place that's a really well-known best-kept secret made popular largely by word of mouth. Their Sunday bottomless mimosa brunches and Tuesday night dance parties on the patio during the summer are hugely popular events, and the rustic Italian dinner cuisine is a constant draw - Roselli was born in the Calabria region of Italy, then moved to Piedmont while in his teens, so the menu reflects the traditions of both northern and southern Italy.

Executive Chef Steve Siekierzynski continues LDV's Italian traditions. He has worked all over metro Detroit directly under such acclaimed chefs as Brian Polcyn and Jimmy Schmidt and has never had a job outside of the restaurant industry. "It's a calling," he says of being a chef. "It's not something you choose; it chooses you."

Penne Norma

The Food Network has made the career of the chef seem glamorous and romantic, showcasing people like Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck as celebrities instead of working men ... what it doesn't show is the 20-30 years of hard work, lost sleep, sweat and sacrifice it took to get there. "I call my wife a 'culinary widow,'" Siekierzynski jokes. "11 hours is a short day." Like anyone else who has taken the vow of chefdom, he does it for the love of it.

This season's installment of Detroit Restaurant Week marks the first time LDV is a participant. "It's a way for us to show ourselves off to a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise come here," Siekierzynski says. "$28 is a good way to get people in who think it's too expensive to eat here - which it's not."

The DRW menu is full of items selected from their regular dinner menu, so even after DRW ends guests can come back again and again for their favorites. Portions are also the same - bountiful Italian-sized portions that is, making the $28 a real value. You'll find some traditional Italian favorites as well as some new concepts. "We continue to try new things," says Siekierzynski. "We can't rest on our laurels, but we're still rooted in the basics."

Siekierzynski is excited to be working with Detroit Restaurant Week, knowing how huge the event has grown in the last two years since it's inception and how it has been able to introduce so many new faces to Detroit's finest establishments. "Detroit is very underrated culinary-wise," he states. "There are some phenomenal chefs in Michigan and Detroit. Events like this really get your face out there a little."

Pollo Marsala


(The Classic)
La Mista
(Baby greens with balsamic vinaigrette, tomato, cucumber, red onion and shaved carrot)
Portabella Mushrooms
(Roasted portabella mushrooms with balsamic reduction)
(Roasted red bell peppers and Parmesan cheese)
(Fried crispy and served with spicy marinara, basil and olives)


Filetto e Scampi
(Tender filet and jumbo scampi with chevre cheese and Marsala cream reduction)
Vitello Piccata
(Tender veal scallopini with artichokes and mushrooms in lemony sauce)
Pollo Marsala
(Sauteed chicken breast with porcini mushrooms, in a light Marsala cream)
Ravioli d'Aragosta allo Zafferano
(Saffron pasta stuffed with lobster and served with Palamino sauce)
Penne Norma
(Penne pasta tossed with marinara, ricotta cheese and roasted eggplant)
Salmone alla Griglia
(Grilled salmon with grain mustard and honey glaze)


Choice of a Selection from the Dessert Cart
(Please ask server for details)

La Dolce Vita on Urbanspoon