La Dolce Vita

We visit Souk Wakif’s newest Italian restaurant Reviews

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La Dolce Vita is a cozy Italian joint tucked away off the main restaurant drag in Souk Wakif. There are a handful of tables inside, and more spilling out into a quiet alley of the souk. Close your eyes, however, and you would swear you were in a trattoria in Florence. Italian – not Arabic or English – is the language you’ll likely hear most. The sound of the language fills the air as diners chat with the restaurant’s owners. And the food? Well, that’s the reason for all the Italian you’re hearing.

La Dolce Vita has become a de facto Italian cultural centre, attracting that country’s expats hungry for a taste of home. Given that ‘Italian’ food most often appears in its globalised and Americanized incarnations, that says a lot about the kind of food you can expect. Prepare yourself for heaped servings of well-made, Italian standards. There are posher, and more inventive Italian restaurants in Doha, but La Dolce Vita succeeds in creating food and an atmosphere that’s relaxed, comfortable, and if you’re Italian, reminds you of home.

The courses progress in the customary Italian manner: antipasti (starters), primi piatti (pastas, risottos, and other starch dishes), secondi piatti (entrées such as meat and fish), and dolci (desserts). Surprisingly, any one of these courses at La Dolce Vita is big enough to be an entrée. The Catalana-style ‘shrimps’, for example, are nominally an appetizer, but nothing shrimp-like appeared on the plate. Rather, three gigantic prawns embedded in a big, leafy salad landed in front of us.

They tasted great, and were nicely balanced with the tart lemon, sweet balsamic, tomatoes, and purple onions. However, the size of the dish made us immediately fret about the amount of food to come. We had each ordered one dish from each course, plus a soup to share between us.

Such a feast is typical for an Italian meal, the restaurant owner’s mother assured us. “In Italy, we like to eat.” Indeed, with food this enjoyable, it’s easy to see why.

The pastas are perfect examples of how everyday Italian fare, made the proper way, can be truly extraordinary. Look up the recipe for the classic penne arrabiata, and you would swear a trained chimp could put together such simple ingredients: tomatoes, olive oil, basil, garlic, some chillies and not much else. But La Dolce Vita’s version tastes like there’s alchemy going on in the kitchen instead of cooking. It’s hard to imagine how something that tastes so satisfying could be made from such common, basic items. The sauce is a bit on the salty side, but there’s a fabulous richness to the flavours that you just don’t find among the pretenders.

While my companion had the penne, I had the pesto tagliatelle with shrimp. Again, the sauce was a bit salty, but again, the robustness of the flavours made that easy to overlook. Realizing that finishing the pastas would leave us no room for more food, we ate half, and packed the rest to take home.

La Dolce Vita gives you the choice of either beef or fish for the secondi piatti course, served in a small variety of ways. Beef comes as steak or filet. I had the “tagliata,” or slices of tenderloin, served with balsamic on a bed of rocca (aka rucola, aka arugula) leaves. Go for medium or rarer if you want to preserve any juiciness. The balsamic helped add moisture to my overdone medium-well, and worked as a nice contrast to the nuttiness of the greens.

My partner mistakenly ordered the fish to be prepared the same way as our prawn appetizer – Catalana style. Still, when it came, it was delicious: fluffy, moist, and bearing a lightness that worked more harmoniously with the crisp salad than did the prawns.

We simply didn’t have room for contorni, or side dishes – not, at least, if we were to fulfill ambitions for dessert. The tiramisu arrives as a big bowl of freshly whipped cream atop the cake and coffee bits. You can tell it’s freshly whipped because if you’re too incapacitated to finish in reasonable time, the cream loses its froth and returns to liquid.

But the real reason to skip a course or two is to save room for La Dolce Vita’s sublime gelato, which is made in-house. It will likely be the finest gelato you will have experienced anywhere. We had a scoop of sour cherry and another of melon. Both exploded with fresh fruity flavour. The ice cream was smooth, yet not overly rich, thus complementing the fruit flavours.

Again, La Dolce Vita proves that foods as simple and common as ice cream, made properly with care and attention to detail, can often be the most pleasurable ones to eat. That’s what makes a meal here so enjoyable. There’s nothing fussy on the menu, yet the quality of the food makes it truly memorable. Only the unavailability of a nice glass of Chianti spoils the illusion of dining at a great little neighbourhood trattoria in Italy.

The bill (for two)
1x Clear soup with pastina QR35
1x Caprese appetiser QR40
1x Catalana-style shrimp QR52
1x Tagiatelle with Pesto and shrimp QR62
1x Penne arrabbiata QR48
1x Tagliata of filet QR88
1x Catalana fish filet QR88
1x Sparkling apple juice QR60
1x San Pellegrino water QR13
1x Panna Cotta QR25
1x Tiramisu QR25
1x Gelato QR15
Total (incl service charges) QR617

By Time Out Doha staff
Time Out Doha,

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.

Details

  • Location: Jasra, Doha
  • Tel: 4436 7991
  • Travel: Al Souq Street
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Experiences: Smoking permitted
  • Times: Open Sun-Thu 12.30pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 1pm-11.30pm
  • Price: QR500+
  • Credit Cards Accepted: Yes

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User reviews:

Posted by: alma wad on 19 Jan ' 12 at 20:31

It is a really nicely written review -it was a pure joy to read it .

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