The Skinny: If you love familiarity as much as you love surprises, get a gourmet pizza from Dolce Vita.
The Fat: When I was still in law school, an old family friend from Tampa - who now practices in Houston - used to scoop me up on Wednesday nights and take me out to dinner with all of his lawyer buddies. I was too consumed with the homework, on which I'd always fallen dangerously behind, to really care about what or where I ate dinner any given night of the week. Basically any place that wasn't Jack in the Box was a welcomed treat. Wednesday after Wednesday, we would dine at some of Houston's favorites, but one place stood out from all the rest. Dolce Vita.
The converted old house on Westheimer is fully equipped with a fine staff, a great drink menu and a perfectly adorable selection of inventive pizzas, delectable cheeses, creative vegetable dishes and unique salads.
You know when you fall in love for the first time and everything before that moment becomes a blur, a mere cliffnote of who you used to be? Well that's sort of how I felt the first time I experienced a Taleggio pizza.
I don't even think I'd ordered it, but somehow it appeared on my table or on someones table nearby. Either way, I was hypnotized. The intoxicating aroma permeated everything around me, slowly converting the quaint Montrose restaurant into the mothership of every pizza desire I would have from that moment on.
The Taleggio, named after the fantastic Italian cheese that oozes with a brie like fluidity all over the warm crust, carries a strong aroma balanced by a smooth and mildly fruity flavor. The thin crust is topped with fresh arugula, ripe pear slices and finally - and most importantly - drizzled with an erotically pungent truffle oil.
I often joke that when I order that pizza, everyone around me hates me for one of two reasons; they're upset that they can't smell anything other than my pizza or they're jealous that they don't have my pizza. Believe me, it's the latter. Alright, alright...so there are 12 other pizzas on the menu, but I gotta rave about my fave!
You'll find other fun pizzas like the Vongole (clams, garlic, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella) and the Zucca (butternut squash, panchetta and smoked mozzarella.) And for the creatures of habit, there are creative versions of the classics like the Siciliana (olives and capers) and the Calabrese (spicy salami) which is just a gourmet spin on a pepperoni pizza.
Dolce Vita also serves a limited number of colorful entrees and pastas that will satisfy any non pizza lover. Be sure to try my favorite Verdura; Shaved Brussel Sprouts with Pecorino. This delicious starter is dense, flavorful and will totally change your opinion of the historically blackballed sprout.
While it's not a super casual pizza joint, it does offer a relaxed vibe for a fairly diverse clientele. The prices are fair. You can share an appetizer, a pizza and two glasses of wine for about $50. So if you want to jump up a notch or two from your regular pizza routine and enjoy a bit of Italian authenticity, this is your place.
P.S. Parking is pretty black and white at Dolce Vita. If you want your car parked in a parking lot, go valet all the way. If you don't mind a super short stroll (my personal favorite - heck, sometimes I even walk from home!) find a little parking spot in the neighborhood just behind the restaurant. Be mindful of the "No Parking" signs and you'll be fine. The way this place gets jammed up on a good night, you'll be able to walk to your car long before valet could get it to you!
Location: 500 Westheimer 713.520.8222
Nobody likes a sad, skinny baby...nobody!
Whether I’m ordering a meal at a restaurant or cooking up something at home, enjoying what I eat brings me immense satisfaction. On the other hand, being disappointed in a meal sends me into tantrum mode.
I expect certain things out of a dining experience. I’m realistic about the standards I hold for each place, from the local taco bar to the five star steak house. What I've decided is that it's about a perfect balance between service, food quality, ambiance and price. That may seem like a lot to juggle, but Houston is a big city with a plethora of restaurants to choose from. There’s no reason to expect anything less than the best.
If you strip my needs down to the bare essentials, you'll find I'm very much like a baby; I love tasty food and I love to be happy. If an experience doesn't generate a sense of fulfillment for those two basic needs...you're gonna hear me cry.
Nobody likes a sad, skinny baby...nobody!