Fabrizio Cali the owner of Mesa’s Dolce Vita never thought he’d own the restaurant he’d been hired by the owners to help find a buyer for. What started as a gelato shop in an unassuming strip mall at Brown & Higley Rds. has become an Italian market and “trattoria” selling imported Italian meats, chesses and serving authentic dishes. Don’t worry the award-winning gelato is shop is still there. He considers Dolce Vita a “trattoria” as in Italy their not as fancy as a full service restaurant with servers doing more than serve including building sandwiches and slicing meats behind the refrigerates cases filled with Italian delicacies. Service is laid back not hovering and checking on guests every few minutes as there is no rush for guests to leave just linger and enjoy as quickly or slowly as you like. Prepping ingredients and hot meals are prepared in the kitchen with his chefs who have worked for him for several years.
Born in Palermo, Cali grew up mostly Milan and became an online video game producer before becoming a consultant and restaurant owner. He has roots all over Italy with his maternal grandmother from Modena in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region of northeast Italy and his father from the southern region of Calabria. It is for this reason that he’s showcasing all 20 regions of Italy with a weekly special. “I am happy to show the Valley a sliver of my Italian culture,” said Cali. “There is so much more to Italian cuisine than what we typically see, and I want everyone to be able to try something they haven’t had before.”
Also on the menu is pizza and dishes from his native Sicily including Aracine & Caponata, the cooked eggplant salad. By authentic Cali means no chicken parmigiana, no Alfredo or carbonara Americans have come to love. Why? Those dishes aren’t authentic Italian dishes he says in the way we expect them here.
Weekly specials at Dolce Vita
March 14-19: Valdostana- Thin, pan-seared veal cutlets, prosciutto, and fontina cheese fried in a butter sauce
21-26: Bagna Cauda- A warm garlic anchovy dip served in a fondue-style warming bowl with bread and mixed vegetables
28-April 2: Trofie al Pesto- Trofie pasta (an elongated curly pasta shape) with Genovese pesto
April 4-9: Pizzoccheri- Buckwheat flour pasta, butter, potatoes, cubes of Fontina cheese and savoy cabbage
11-16: Risi e Bisi- Venetian rice and peas with prosciutto
18-23: Canederli- Bread dumplings with speck (cured, lightly smoked ham)
25-30: Frico- A thin layer of baked, grated cheese with potato served as a snack, garnish or appetizer
May 2-7: Tagliatelle Ragu Bolognese- A beef and sofrito tomato sauce tossed with Tagliatelle pasta, a traditional long and flat pasta shape made with eggs
9-14: Pici all’Aglione- A pasta dish tossed with chili peppers and tomato-garlic sauce
16-21: Arrosticini- Grilled lamb skewers
May 30-June 4: Saltimbocca-Thin veal cutlets topped with prosciutto and sage
June 6-11: Vincisgrassi- Similar to lasagna, it is hand-rolled pasta with ragu meat sauce
13-18: Cavatelli con Broccoli- Small pasta shells tossed with garlic and broccoli
20-25: Pasta alla Norcina- Creamy pasta with sausage, cream and white wine
June 27-July 2: Frittata di Spaghetti- Spaghetti baked into an egg frittata
July 4-9: Cutturiddi- A light lamb stew
11-16: Orecchiette Cime di Rapa- Orecchiette pasta with olive oil, garlic, chiles, anchovies and turnip greens
18-23: Pipi Chini- Peppers stuffed with breadcrumbs, anchovies, garlic and capers
25-30: Pasta alla Norma- Pasta with sauteed eggplant tossed with tomato sauce and ricotta salata
August 1-6: Fregola con Gamberi- A creamy pearl pasta cooked with shellfish stock and topped with prawns
Dolce Vita is at 5251 East Brown Rd. #104. The shop is open from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays. The restaurant hours are noon to 2 p.m. and 4-8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. on Sundays. For more information see their website.
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