16 July 2013

No Crayfish Left Behind: The Sweet Life at Dolce Vita

Image of Dolce Vita courtesy of Trip Advisor
You know how sometimes everybody raves about a place and the praise is so universal that you find yourself unable to take it seriously?  That was us re: Dolce Vita, up until our most recent trip to Anguilla. The miracle is that we found ourselves there purely by happy accident.  Ever since my first trip to the Caribbean (St. Lucia, 2001), I've been a little leery of eating Italian food on vacation down there.  The first hotel I ever stayed in offered Italian Night once per week and I remember being shocked to find Osso Bucco as the night's special.  That's right: veal shank bone marrow. In 85 degree heat. Thanks, but no thanks!

Dining at Zozos on St. John and at Trattoria Tramonto or the now-defunct Luna Rosa on Anguilla did nothing to prepare me for Dolce Vita.  (Sidebar: what is it about these restaurants on Anguilla and not having websites? How do they get by?)

image courtesy of Dolce Vita
It was our penultimate night on the island, so our first thought was to go big or go home: Jacala.  But when we called, they had no openings for the night.  Huh, that's odd, since it's the first week in July and it's a slow time.  But fine. Our second choice was to try Flavours, the new restaurant at La Vue, but something was wrong with their telephone service and we couldn't get through. Stymied, we decided to give a new-to-us place a try based on the recommendation of JP & Adria, the couple from Texas whom we befriended on our visit: Dolce Vita.  We struck culinary gold.

Sunset over Sandy Ground
 We arrived just in time to watch the sunset across the harbor and we had the place to ourselves for practically the first hour (6:30-7:30). I settled in with a mojito, incidentally one of the best I've had largely due to the plentiful number of muddled mint leaves, and debated my food strategy for the evening.  We were dangerously close to leaving the island without my having ordered any crayfish.  We were to do the chef's tasting menu at Veya the next night (about which, more anon), but I couldn't guarantee that crayfish would be part of it, so it was now or never. Thus began my second annual campaign of No Crayfish Left Behind.
My near-perfect mojito
After consulting with our server (Victoria, I believe), I decided to go for broke, despite the fact that the restaurant could not prepare a smaller-than-usual portion of crayfish for me. DH opted to sample a couple of small plates, with the promise to help me finish off the crayfish if need be.

DH, pondering his menu
The one contingency I hadn't planned for was irresistible bread. As in, so irresistible I couldn't hold back from eating it, no matter how much crayfish I knew lay ahead. Hands down, it was the best bread accompanying any meal we've eaten in Anguilla, including, I'm sorry to say, the johnny cakes at Veya, which had been my favorite up until that moment. Upon inquiry we learned that the bread was from Le Bon Pain in the east end and it was good enough to make us consider driving the hour or so, roundtrip, for breakfast some morning.

Pothound on the beach
DH's first course arrived while we were watching the various dogs stake out their beach territories in front of the restaurant.  It was an eggplant rollatini, and it was really quite special. Thin and tender slices of eggplant, rolled around a cheese filling, topped with tomato sauce and parmesan.  Sounds heavy, but it was exquisite.

Eggplant rollatini
DH's second course of gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce rolled out with my crayfish, and these were both excellent.  As good as my crayfish were (and they were among the best I'd ever eaten), those gnocchi were pretty heavenly.  Light, pillowy bits that melted in the mouth.  They didn't look like much, but let's just say we should have renamed our dining campaign No Gnocchi Left Behind. Lest you think this review is spurious, I will allow that the broccoli on my plate was overcooked, and worse, oversalted.
Grilled crayfish
Gorgonzola gnocchi
We weren't feeling especially hungry by that time, but I'd heard rumors that dessert comes accompanied with complimentary shots of limoncello, and who am I to mess about when limoncello is at stake? The usual Italian suspects were available, like tiramisu and semifreddo, but we opted for the limoncello cheesecake, which was perfect, and also quite pretty.

Limoncello cheesecake
As above, but with actual limoncello in background
By the time we settled our check, the restaurant was nearly full and seeming quite congenial.  At least two large boating/sailing parties were present, plus a handful of couples we'd seen elsewhere around the island.  This may have been our first foray to Dolce Vita, but it certainly won't be our last.  Rather, this restaurant quickly made it to our list of must-do restaurants for all future visits to Anguilla.

17 comments:

  1. Another one of our favorites, we missed Abi in April - he was off island, he is such a great host, but Sandra took good care of us. Have never had a bad meal there - always very good.
    I have not seen that eggplant rollatini, it looked so good I had to print a recipe to try - we have a lot of eggplant in our garden.
    I had heard they were going to take over Luna Rosa soon, and it would be a fish house, have not heard anything further.
    Thank you Emily,
    Ellen

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    1. There's a sign on the main road at the turnoff to the old Luna Rosa that says AXA Fish House, and then beneath that its says Coming Soon. That sure will be a good location for a restaurant. But the style of the sign makes it look VERY casual.

      Clearly I'm the last to jump on the Dolce Vita bandwagon. I have to say that I liked it a LOT better than my one trip to Luna Rosa.

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  2. I WANT ALL OF YOUR FOOD. I don't even like eggplant, but I still want the eggplant rollatini. Mainly because cheese. Also crayfish and gnocchi and gah.

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    1. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that even if you don't like eggplant (HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE EGGPLANT?!), you would like this dish. So yummy.

      And crayfish--I didn't get the idea of crayfish before I went to Anguilla 'cause my only reference was the southern Louisiana crayfish, which I'm not a fan of. I mean, come on--they're nicknamed mudbugs. But these crayfish are good for yummy times.

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    2. HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE CILANTRO

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    3. JULIA CHILD HATED CILANTRO. So I can too. With impunity.

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  3. I swear, these posts have me believing that Anguilla is the most magical place on earth (take that, Disney). It just sounds so wonderful, and the FOOD PICS! Everything just looks so delicious. And I've never even had crayfish!

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    1. Well, let's just say that if given the choice between Disney and Anguilla, the latter would always win. (And I actually rather like DisneyWorld).

      I've never been to any other island where crayfish is on the menu, so I don't really understand how it works. You'd think the next couple of islands over would also have lots of crayfish, but apparently not.

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  4. Those pictures and descriptions are making me hungry! I'm glad you found a new favorite. :)

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  5. Dolce Vita is one of our favourites too. So many great things on the menu you will have to return several times to try them all. My absolute favourite is the duck pappadelle which I have never seen on any other Italian restaurant menu. You should try it but only if you won't have to share!!

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    1. Oh, that duck pappadelle sounds wonderful. Can't wait to go back and explore their menu a bit!

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  6. Emily - I posted your whole TR in FAQ's - hope that is ok- if not, let me know and I will remove. It is too good to not live on!
    Thanks.
    Ellen

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    1. Actually, I'm flattered! Thanks for thinking it's a good enough reference to keep there.

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  7. Emily - your work is so good - I wish I could nominate you for some blog award! AXA Tourist Board should be paying you for your contributions, truly it is such a pleasure and delight to read your posts, thank you for all you do.
    Ellen

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    1. From your mouth (er, fingertips?) to God's ear, Ellen. Thank you! And thank YOU for being such a faithful commenter.

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  8. I love the emphasis on "mud dogs" haha. I dont know where that nickname comes from but it does sound disgusting. I've even heard them being called mud bugs too blah. It's funny how you admit to the brocolli being oversalted but that was completely fine because the crayfish were so good. Great share here as usual.

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  9. The scenery of the unset over Sandy Ground looking very attractive and wish to enjoy as like as this.travel food for dogs

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Please, sir, may I have some more? (Comments, that is!)