Let me start by saying that I don't consider myself to be any sort of food/service/ambiance snob....but I do expect above average of all three when spending over $40 per person on food alone. That said, here is the story of my first (and last) visit to the much-hyped Dolce.
Four of us had 6:30 PM reservations yesterday, and we were seated promptly. The ambiance was nice- quiet music playing, lights turned low so the flame licking the bar could be seen from every seat...very nice. We were sat in a large booth facing the restaurant, which was great for checking the place out. I perused the wine list and was slighly dismayed that there were very few wines (particularly California wines) under $45, with just a couple coming in at that price. So, I ordered a $45 bottle of chianti, to which the waiter hastily made a face- he proceeded to tell me that my choice was extremely dry and I may not like it, why don't I try the San Vicente one ($50) which is a much "fruitier" wine. Not sure why he read me as a fruity type, but I did appreciate his advice since my sister definitely is a fruity type, so we went with his suggestion. The flat or sparkling water question was asked so we opted for flat, still feeling slightly intimidated by the waiter's crumpled face about my choice of wine. NO biggie. We also ordered a half bottle of chamapagne for the only non-red-wine drinker at the table ($25) and checked out the menu.
We decided to order 4 enotecas to share, then a main dish per person. I asked out waiter to bring out the enoteca first so we could all sample them, and he said he would. We ordered the gnocchi with pesto, fresh figs and proscuitto, risotto cake, and the Fried calamari, shrimp and zucchini in a grabanzo bean flour. After about 15 minutes, 1 waiter who wasn't ours and 1 busboy brought out the four plates, and barked at me "move your plate! move your plate!" wanting to set the four plates down, and plunked the gnocchi in front of my friend while trying to give the other three to each of the other three of us. I asked them to set them in the middle as we were all sharing, and they finally did. I was a little put off by the order to move my plate, but again, I am not all that picky and the food looked good, so we dug in. The gnocchi was soft and pillowy and the pesto was very good- the figs were good...literally 3 figs cut in half laying on a bed of proscuitto. The risotto cake was so flavorless that we literally couldn't tell what kind of risotto it was (it was a reddish color with a dollop of cheese on top) and the fried calamari, shrimp, and zucchini, thought tasty- was all calamari. There were 2 shrimp, 4 pathetically limp and paper thin slices of zucchini and a mass of calamari that came with a mayonnaise-based dipping sauce. Again, I was put off by the 95% calamari/3% zucchini/2% shrimp ratio but was still hopeful for our main courses and didn't want to be negative, so I just brushed it off. Also, somewhere during the course of this a bus boy quietly brought another freshly OPENED bottle of water even though our glasses were full....another thing I let "slide" but made sure to tell my dinner companions to keep an eye out so it wouldn't happen again. We ate and were ready for the main course.
We all ordered pasta dishes- one giant penne with Italian sausage, one fusilli with lobster in a red pepper sauce, one risotto with veal and one cannelloni, which had been the waiter's choice when my friend couldn't decide between that or the pumpkin ravioli. The waiter went as far as saying that he'd had better pumpkin ravioli at other places, and that the cannelloni was the best. My friend appreciated his honestly and took his word for it. 5 minutes passed and our waiter returned, saying they were out of cannelloni...at 7:00PM? So, my friend asked for the menu again since the pumpkin ravioli had already been dubbed as "not so great." After waiting for another 10 minutes, we all started looking around for our waiter who was nowhere to be found. We finally flagged down another waiter and asked for a menu. We were told "oh, he's coming," referring to our waiter who obviously is the only one who can bring us a menu? (do you sense me getting more and more aggravated?). We finally get the menu, friend orders the wheat penne with eggplant and burrata mozarella, and we're on our way again to getting the much-anticipated pasta dishes.......and we wait. and wait. Then the "team" of other waiters/busboys bring out the food, setting the lobster pasta in front of my sister (I ordered it, not her). So I simply picked it up and put it in front of me. Much to our surpise, the waiter puts another plate of the same lobster pasta in front of my sister- our waiter had made a mistake with her order. We pointed it out, the team of waiters/busboys looked confused and called our waiter over. Our waiter said "oh, the kitchen screwed up!" and took her plate. We waited and waited some more, finally flagged him down again asking how much longer it would take (we didn't want to start until everyone had gotten their meal). He said "3 minutes, so you can either start eating and her's will be right out, or I can take it all back and keep it warm." We opted for the latter........and waited.........and waited. I asked for an extra champage glass so I could try some of my friend's champage, and yet another waiter practically slammed the glass down on the table. I noticed all of the spots on it before I noticed the huge, red lipstick stain and by then, I'd had it. I'd dealt with barking busboys, an enormous cast of waiters/busboys, a virtually shrimp-less shrimp plate, a wrong order, a long wait in between all of this, a broken promise by our waiter to have our food out in 3 minutes (it wasn't even close) and now a disgusting champagne glass...and still no food had arrived. I asked my friends (whom, by this time had also become quite aggravated) if it was ok to tell the manager that we'd had enough and would like to leave. They all agreed so we called over the waiter and told him, who looked at us like we were nuts and asked us to wait. About 3 minutes later, the manager came out and asked what the problem was, so I told him about the missed order, the prolonged wait for the food and the champage glass- and that I'd had enough and simply wanted the check. He said "you have to wait 5 minutes for your food so now you don't want it?" to which my friend replied "excuse me, are you now placing blame on us???" The nervous manager said "oh no, I just want to know what the problem is" so I told him again- the main reason I was so exasperated was that, on top of getting an order wrong (which happens, it isn't a crime) the waiter said it would be 3 minutes, it's been over 12 and then I get a filthy glass brought to us by another "not our waiter" and that I was at the end of my rope. He says "well, so now you don't want your food? because I have four perfectly good dinners now that are going to be wasted." Is it me of does this guy need to take a crash course in public relations??? Again, my friend pointed out the fact that he seemed to be blaming us, and that comments like that are hardly what four pissed off people want to hear after a bad experience. It took this dope about 10 minutes to figure out that no, we didn't want our food, and to please bring the friggin check! I made sure he knew I wasn't trying to get out of paying for what we had already consumed- I absolutely would pay for that but I didn't want to waste another minute in the place. He finally had the waiter (ours, for once) bring the check, and the waiter mumbled "it shouldn't be like this" and walked off. We paid the $125 tab and left. I'm still not sure if the manager knows why we left, as i could have sworn I saw him scratching his head.
We needed a stiff drink and went over to El Carmen and had a few margaritas- we were talking about our night and the bar tender overheard and asked about the manager. I immediately thought "uh oh" and asked if he was a friend of his, and he replied "no, I'm not a friend but I know him- he's never managed a restaurant before." Go figure.
I'd like to say, in my closing statement, that I would have a higher tolerance at a less expensive establishment- and even at higher end places I certainly do not expect perfection and Dolce is not eye poppingly expensive, but it is a "nice" place. With each thing that goes wrong, I start to get more and more irritated as I look at the obviously expensive interior, hear the hype all over town, and am tricked into having 2 bottles of $8 water. It better be damn good, and it wasn't even close. I will not be returning.