We finally got up there to try this place. Our expectations weren't high, as the printed menu showed the same dozen or so dishes that almost all Italianesque places seem to have. However, we were pleasantly surprised, and would recommend a visit to those who live in the area, or find themselves nearby. It's on Carefree Highway between 7th Street and Cave Creek, so it's pretty out of the way for most of us.
The owner told us that the certificate entitled us to order whatever we wanted, but because it's independently owned and he had been generous enough to donate the gift certificate to the Luv Shack horse rescue organization, we didn't go overboard. We shared an order of calamari, which was crisp and not greasy, and served with a marinara-type sauce on the side. We also shared a Ceasar salad, simple but crisp with a subtle dressing. Jamie ordered the lasagna, his standard test of an Italian restaurant, and I had one of the specials, which was gnocchi with pancetta, light cream sauce and spinach. Gnocchi has been one of my favorite things for many years, but I have almost stopped ordering it because so often it is heavy, or if not that it is boring -- a big dish of one-note taste. But this gnocchi didn't bore me, and was worth the calories, each light piece about the size of the end of my thumb, and the pancetta and spinach really perked up the dish. Jamie said the lasagna was one of the best he's had recently.
I had a martini and Jamie had a margarita, so we can't comment on the wine; however, we overheard the waiter describing some recently arrived Italian reds to a nearby table of regular diners. We didn't have dessert. The restaurant is in a strip mall but the interior is open and attractive, and although the diners were casually dressed it is much more than a dive. If we lived closer we could picture ourselves becoming regulars, but as it is, we may make the occasional drive to visit the place again.
Our certificate didn't cover alcohol, so counting that cost and tip and the $55 I originally paid, we actually paid about the price of the meal, which would have ended up around $85.
La Dolce Vita
4705 E. Carefree Highway, Suite 117
Cave Creek, AZ 480-595-2409