Friday, September 09, 2011

Delciously Dolce

I was looking forward to spending an early dinner with Claire at a new restaurant in our area of town, a cafe and cake decorating shop started by a pro-life friend of ours from way back, Gina Sterns. But I wasn't expecting to be so impressed that I'd be writing my first ever restaurant review. But here I am doing just that.

The place is Dolce Cafe at 12317 West Maple Road. It's only been open for a little over a month and it's not the easiest place to find. It's actually off Maple in a strip mall that is just south of the main street. It faces Maple but you've got to come in from the other side (i.e., 124th to Emmet and then back behind the building to the north side.)

But it's more than worth the trouble. It's a nifty little spot for a delicious, very affordable meal in a sophisticated, uncrowded atmosphere. The menu, created by classically trained chefs (including Gina herself) is strong on organic, local sources and includes such tasty, healthy dishes as a Goat Cheese Chicken Panini, Zucchini and Asparagus Salad, and dinner specials. Claire and I opted for the Gourmet Mac n' Cheese ($6.95) and Gina's Meatball Panini ($8.95). Both dishes were terrific. The Mac n' Cheese was made with mild cheddar and penne pasta. It was lightly seasoned and not overly heavy on the sauce as is so often the case. The meatball sandwich was great with a delicious rosemary focaccia bread and what may be the best marinara sauce I've ever had. Both were served in a plentiful portion.

Gina firmly believes in an 80/20 rule when it comes to nutrition. By that, she means that if you eat nutritiously and well 80% of the time, you're okay to take the rest in richer fare -- like fabulous deserts. And at Dolce, that means Gina's superb cakes. We sampled those too tonight. Claire's slice of carrot cake was large, nutty, raisiny and topped with a butter cream frosting that she loved. I went with the white cupcakes made with almond and sour cream. Wow.

And did I mention the house red (Garofoli "Antica Osteria" Rosso) and the LaRue coffee were wonderful too? They were. As was the atmosphere -- light jazz playing very quietly in the background, a clean and lovely decor (which includes a few of Gina's decorated wedding cakes on the sideboard), and an attentive, friendly waitress. It was a perfect place for Claire's birthday dinner but we are already planning on making Dolce a regular hangout.

Gina is there quite a bit as is her Mom. And at what other restaurant might you find your evening meal order taken by one of the Midwest's most respected electro-cardiologists? That would be Gina's husband, Dave.

In case you can't tell yet, Claire and I are recommending Dolce Cafe with plenty of confidence and enthusiasm. So, why not try it sometime soon? They are open from 11-10 with special dinner entrees available beginning at 6. Tell them when you go that Denny and Claire sent you. And who knows, we may well be there to join you!

(FYI -- "Dolce" is an Italian word which can mean sweet, soft, savory or mellow. It is from the Latin word "dulcis" from where we have derived "dulcet," a neat word which carries similar meanings as in "The audience would long remember the dulcet tones of Tommy Dorsey's trombone.")