1212 La Dolce Vita
Tucked away in an unassuming strip mall off Highway 31 across from Chace Lake is long-established neighborhood favorite La Dolce Vita.
Last year, longtime Hoover residents Tamika and Jonathan Dunning took ownership of the restaurant. The many subtle changes they’ve made have caught the favorable attention of some of the restaurant’s most loyal patrons. Chief among improvements was a refresh of the restaurant’s quaint dining room.
“It’s become lighter and airier,” Dunning said.
They’ve also made it more family-friendly while preserving the special occasion ambience the restaurant has long been known for. While white paper now tops the tablecloths (changed from black) for kids to doodle on while they wait for their food to arrive, each table is also graced by candlelight. The result? An intimate dining space as appealing to ‘tweens as it is to parents on a date night out.
Another change diners will notice is a revamped menu, save a few classic entrees kept from before.
“Anything we kept, it has been improved in a way we hope our customers like,” she said. “From the preparation to the presentation, we’ve put our spin on it and tried to make it better for the guests.”
And that spin comes from experience.
“When we first met, we opened a restaurant together,” said Dunning. “Eventually we realized we didn’t want to be in the kitchen; instead, we wanted to focus on ownership and operation. The direction of a lot of dishes on the La Dolce Vita menu have come from our own experiences.”
The couple will also launch Villagio at Ross Bridge in mid-December.
The Dunnings took their vision for La Dolce Vita to renowned Brazilian chef Fabio Michalkow, who has infused unexpected combinations of ingredients to both the classic and more elaborate Italian dishes.
“He can blend these different flavors and make this unique taste, but it’s not so out there that you don’t like it,” said Dunning, describing a sea bass topped with tangerines. “I didn’t think I would like it, but I loved it. Your taste buds will just be awakened by his talent.”
Since the Dunnings took over the restaurant last year, changes in patronage have improved. The restaurant’s entry, which opens into an intimate upscale bar with full service dining, accurately conveys the crowd one can typically find at La Dolce Vita any day of the week.
“We have people coming in for business meetings; there is one regular group of about 10 to 12 businessmen. They love to come and eat and continue the rest of their workday there. We’ve also seen more girls’ night out type gatherings and more children this year than ever before. And that feels right to us. We want to make sure that it’s a place for every occasion, from every day enjoyment to celebrating something special.”