La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita – a phrase that became synonymous with a certain fabulous Italian lifestyle after Fellini’s iconic 1960 movie of the same name (who can think of the Trevi fountain without a mental image of Anita Ekberg!). Before I moved here and came for visits, I would hie to the original La Dolce Vita on our then underdeveloped Malecon. Now I go to their new restaurant on Basilio Badillo because I have heard complaints about staff on their phones at the original one. Why servers who depend heavily on tips to survive would choose to stare into their phones and ignore their customers is beyond me – I am personally in favor of total cell phone banishment in restaurants, an idea whose time is coming thank goodness! Well, now that particular pet peeve is out of the way . . .
The place looks great and feels great in the hot summer days, it’s a giant air-conditioned dome. The bar is hip with its fresh flowers and marble top. Hang on though – I feel another pet peeve coming on. The music. As in so many places, it is too loud – and who first dictated that diners all enjoy tired old 70’s rock’n’roll? Fairly recently I went to what was touted as being the best restaurant in Panama City, Panama, for what they called a “total Panamanian experience” – course after course served with a blow-by-blow narration of that fascinating country, but the whole evening was spoiled by Michael Jackson wailing on about his Billy Jean. Who knew Michael Jackson was Panamanian?
But my point is – marry the restaurant cuisine and ambiance to the music. It’s corny but effective!
But do I ever digress, La Dolce Vita has the most extensive array of pizzas; there are 25 on the menu, and they are all great. You’ve got your usual suspects, Margherita, pepperoni, quattro formaggi,frutti di mare and climbing up the pizzeria ladder to an Esotica with ham and pineapple, the Luna with gorgonzola (delicioso!), the tonno e cipolla with tuna, all the way up to the Fantasia where you can choose your three main ingredients. So, pizza lovers, they’ve got you covered! There is an excellent array of pasta, and I’m a great smoked salmon fancier so often order the fettucine al salmone; although last time it was not up to snuff, the salmon was limp and tasteless. A lovely one from the Paste column is the linguine zucchini e gamberi with shrimp sautéed in white wine. They kick it up a notch in the Paste Fresche department; I really love the cannelloni filled with spinach and ricotta, which feature in their ravioli too. I don’t know where they get their spinach, but all I can say is that if Popeye were in town, he’d be eating here every day. Perennial favorites chicken Parmigiana and Cacciatore are both excellent, and the cotelleta alla Milanese delicious but bring us more lemon wedges! I confess I have not sampled one of my all-time favorite dishes, their Saltimbocca. I would eat it daily in San Francisco’s North Beach, and maybe I don’t want to sully that most wonderful of culinary memories!
So all bases are covered at La Dolce Vita, where you can order your favorite Italian specialty and watch the endless parade of touristi on Basilio Badillo. There’s a bewildering amount of yearly restaurant changes on this street, but I guarantee we can count on this one being a Puerto Vallarta staple!

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