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Il Dolce Pizzeria- Costa Mesa....finally a real deal unpretentious artisanal pizzeria

c
cdmedici Dec 16, 2009 08:56 AM

After driving past this new building being built practically every day, I was extremely intrigued when heard it was going to be an authentic Italian pizzeria. I have wanted a great pizzeria in my area ever since I tasted great pizza in Italy many years ago. I know that Big Al’s and The Pizza Oven get much respect, but these are more American/New York Style pizza.

Rumor was that the chef/owner is a trained baker and has been working the pizza oven for Wolfgang Puck over the past year while his restaurant was being built. A couple of weeks ago a saw someone inside and even though it wasn’t open I pulled in anyhow and talked to the owners. The owners are husband and wife named Roberto and Ferndanda. They were incredibly sweet and took the time to tell me about the place. He has indeed been working with Puck as there is a picture of him on the wall next to a framed certificate from the Verace Pizza Napoletana, which I guess is an academy that certifies you as a trained maker of Naples style pizza. Roberto also told me the he imports the flour from Naples and that they will be making their own mozzarella everyday.

The couple is from Argentina and looking at the menu I saw a few non-Italian items I was excited about like empanadas and grilled skirt steak w/ chimichurri sauce.

I went with my wife and another couple a few days after they opened and had a great experience. We started with the meatballs, which were very tender. We also ordered both the beef and chicken empanadas. Wow! These were the best I have ever had. Totally the real deal! Way better than Empanada Place or House of Empanadas .

Then the real feast began. I took a menu for reference.

The Pizzas;
Polpetta - Pesto sauce, mozzarella, meatballs w/ tomato sauce and fresh basil

Patata - Chili oil, mozzarella, gruyere, pancetta, fingerling roasted potato and fresh rosemary

Salciccia - Garlic sauce, pancetta, fresh mozzarella, Italian sausage, caramelized onion, rapini, Italian parsley and basil.

We also had the Chicken Picatta which was done very well.

All of the pizzas were very delicious and the crust was not the afterthought like so many other places. It has nice texture and flavor. I usually like pizza dough more crispy and charred so I think the next time I go I will ask for it more cooked, but over all I highly recommend this place. I can’t think of any artisanal style pizza place in Orange County that is better and I have been to Pizzeria Ortica and Canaletto…besides those places are too fancy pants for pizza. This place is very casual and relaxed.

The address is:
1902 Harbor Blvd (and 19th St)
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

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  1. JAB Dec 16, 2009 09:39 AM

    Thanks for the review as always. I'll certainly try this out as I trust your recs but, I want to point you to the following: Pizza e Vino in Rancho Santa Margarita of all places. It's the real deal.

    1. l
      landru64 Dec 16, 2009 09:55 PM

      i just came from there. i raced over there at 9:30 from corona del mar, hoping they'd be open. it was kick ass. i highly recommend it and i concur with everything you said (except maybe the part about the crust needing to be more well done. by far, i don't think it's too limp, but i wouldn't hate it if it were a bit burnt, too :)

      EVERYONE SHOULD GO TO THIS RESTAURANT TO TASTE FOR THEMSELVES.

      edit: btw the attached photo is the arugula and prosciutto pizza.

       
      2 Replies
      1. re: landru64
        c
        cdmedici Dec 17, 2009 08:11 AM

        Yes..I should have added that my wife likes the crust softer. It is definitely a personal preference.

        I should have added to my review that they also have a bunch of tasty looking pasta, salads and antipasti. They are also open for lunch. I don't remember exactly but the menu is mostly the same but there was a bunch of delicious sounding paninis as well.

        1. re: cdmedici
          k
          kevin Dec 17, 2009 02:47 PM

          sounds good.

      2. groover808 Dec 17, 2009 03:27 PM

        Thanks for the report. I've been meaning to go to Pizza E Vino, but it's pretty far and this is much closer, plus sounds a bit more casual. How was the fresh mozzarella? According to the menu, it's made in house.

        1 Reply
        1. re: groover808
          c
          cdmedici Dec 17, 2009 06:57 PM

          I checked out the website for Pizza E Vino and it does look quite good and looks like more of a formal sit down, but Rancho Santa Margarita might as well be San Diego when I am chilling in West Newport wearing flip flops and wanting a local casual italian meal. The next time I find myself in down there I will for sure check it out.

          I only had the fresh mozzarella on the pizza and it was very good. I don't remember if they had a caprese salad on the menu.

        2. OC Mutt Dec 17, 2009 07:02 PM

          decor and "fancy pants" aside, are you saying that the pizza is superior to Ortica? I found Ortica to be embarrassingly mediocre and certainly not worth a return visit so the bar to beat that place is set quite low, but it would be nice if there was an artisanal place in OC that can deliver the culinary goods.

          2 Replies
          1. re: OC Mutt
            c
            cdmedici Dec 17, 2009 07:41 PM

            Ha Ha. Good point. I did not enjoy Ortica that much. Although I enjoyed the pizza more than the other items on the menu. I only mentioned Ortica because that is what it is claiming to be along with its "300 year old starter dough".

            Ortica and Il Dolce are miles apart as far as pretense and decor. I love supporting the family owned local places so I recommend giving Il Dolce a try.

            1. re: cdmedici
              k
              krick Dec 18, 2009 10:23 AM

              I used to feel the same way about Ortica, but just went back recently after a year absence and thought the food, service and general feel of the place had improved significantly.

          2. meltedcheese Dec 17, 2009 08:25 PM

            Went there this week as well- I live right down the street and this area screams for a decent pizza place.

            I liked the menu the choices and what they are trying to do. I will definitely go back, but there are three problems they need to address.

            1. Their wine list is weak. It's like something you'd see at Mimi's restaurant. How about a few special Italian wines- medium priced and seeing as how they have an Argentinian slant a few wines from Argentina as well.

            2. While I liked the taste of the crust it is WAY too tough. It may need:
            a. more time to develop
            b. a hotter oven- I agree with a poster that the pizza needs some black char- perhaps less time in the oven will keep it moist- or it needs some oil in the dough. the dryness of the crust adds to the difficulty in chewing it and it made me want to dip it in oil. At least it's not soggy like Ortica.

            3. The mozzarella needs to be in dollops. On the Margarita pizza the cheese spread out in this really thin layer like soup and barely led any textural variance or taste to the pizza. By the way the sauce seems pretty good, and I liked the potato pizza better.

            I will be back this week- I will try the Empanadas- the asparago pizza, the pasta and bisteca...

            I think it has potential. Hopefully the read the early reviews

            9 Replies
            1. re: meltedcheese
              c
              cdmedici Dec 18, 2009 08:47 AM

              Yes..the wine list was on the small side. Great idea about Argentinian wine. I have been drinking some amazing bottles of Malbec from Hi-Times Wine Cellar lately. Great pricing as well.

              Hopefully they will add more wine as they figure out there customer base.

              1. re: cdmedici
                r
                REFFI Dec 23, 2009 02:11 PM

                First I want to provide the correct telephone number (the one in the digest is wrong). It is 949-602-6161. We went (based on the digest) for lunch today. We have been to Ortica and tend to agree with the earlier posters. OK, but we won't be back. I have been to Naples and I have been to Pizza Antica in Marina Del Rey. Il Dolce Pizza has the potential, but today, they fell short. We ordered the large Faro salad. It was very good, but (even my wife agree) needed a touch of salt and pepper, neither of which were on the table. Because (I hope) the salad, being chewy, is eaten more slowly, our pizza margherita arrived before we were finished with the salad and, onsequently, sat for a while before we could begin eating. I lifted the crust and it seemed a little pale to me with few to no char spots. Sitting on a plate, of course, the crust began to sog. While it was chewy, there was no crispness anywhere to be found. The mozzzarella was not chunky and, indeed, had melted and spread across the breadth of the pizza. Basil was very sparse and the tomatoes were not very flavorful (given the time of the year, I guess that's to be expected).

                The big question is: Will we go back? The answer is: probably. There are a lot of interesting looking dishes on the menu. When's the last time you saw a prime hamburger for under ten bucks? Maybe next time I'll 'shoot' the oven with my infrared thermometer to see if, maybe, there temperature is down. I didn't see the VPN sign, but really wasn't looking for it. they do have Birra Peroni Nastro Azurro, one of my favorite beers.

                To me, the true test of an Italian restaurant is the crust of their pizza, the bread for their sandwiches (the ciabatta looks gorgeous) and the texture and flavor of their meatballs. Next trip: Meatball sandwich.

                -----
                Il Dolce Pizzeria
                1902 Harbor Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

                1. re: REFFI
                  Professor Salt Dec 23, 2009 02:41 PM

                  I'll pile on with the remarks about the almost-but-not-quite-there crust. The crust had the distinct, lactic smell of a well fermented dough. So did the housemade bread. There is enough moisture in the crumb, but the bottom of the crust needs a higher oven heat to char correctly.

                  The house made fior di latte must be too wet. It leached out a lot of water on my margherita pizza, which looked like a big soupy mess. The idea of house made mozzarella is better than the execution. The cheese needs a more thorough pressing to expel moisture, I'm guessing.

                  Overall - it wasn't bad by any means, but I'd like to see some tweaks to get the final product dialed in.

                  1. re: REFFI
                    h
                    Harry Nile Dec 23, 2009 03:00 PM

                    Many of us have long had the habit of requesting Southern California pizzas "well done" or "crisp" (or "delivered from New Haven" ;-).

                    Despite the claim of house-made mozzarella, it sounds like they use thin slices from a manufactured loaf. Watery cheese could create a wet pizza but would not necessarily melt into a very thin layer. Of course, with slices, you can see the seams. So maybe the mozzarella just has a wimpy structure.

                    I eagerly await your report on the meatball sandwich, because I haven't found a good restaurant meatball anywhere in Southern California.

                    1. re: Harry Nile
                      OC Mutt Dec 24, 2009 03:40 AM

                      Good advice in ordering pizza "well done" or "crisp" in southern CA. It's inexplicable why crispness of crust and caramelization of cheese and toppings is generally shunned by pizza makers out here (laziness? impatience? bad taste?), but it is unfortunately quite common. Seeing sickly white, barely melted cheese on top of a pale crust is all too prevalent. BTW, Ortica's was wet and dissolved in places - it was gross.

                      1. re: OC Mutt
                        c
                        cdmedici Dec 26, 2009 02:24 PM

                        I went back today for lunch and am happy to report back that there is a big improvement on the crust. I noticed a secondary fire in the oven so I walked over and asked the owner. Apparently it is a gas fired pizza oven, but he now also using wood. Just as I was talking to him a man walked into the store delivering wood. He said it was almond wood. I noticed the digital temp of the outside of the oven read 797 degrees.

                        I ordered a pizza called Pizza al Funghi which as the name implies is mushroom. To be more specific it had sauteed wild mushrooms with mozzarella and fontina cheese. It was very good. I even took a pic with my cell phone.

                         
                        1. re: cdmedici
                          l
                          landru64 Dec 26, 2009 04:18 PM

                          i went back again today as well! the crust was indeed better--more bubbles, more char. he mentioned that maybe this time the crust had been allowed to develop longer. having just gone to mozza on christmas eve, i can say that this pizza is closer than just about anything i've had (i have not been to ortica) around so cal. true, the crust still gets soggy quickly in the middle. i personally find the mozza crust to be a little bit too airy and light, and certainly lighter than anything i have ever had in italy! but the mozza crust was crisp in the center, even in the face of dautingly oily ingredients like those in the bianca pizza i had there.

                          the il dolce pizza this time around was the patata pizza. similar in concept to the bianca at mozza, it was bland, but i still enjoyed it, mostly because of the crust. i need to try the prosciutto and rucola pizza again.

                          good progress. i like this place.

                           
                          1. re: cdmedici
                            groover808 Dec 27, 2009 05:37 AM

                            Good to hear, I'm going to go tonight. Would you say the pizzas are personal sized so just 1 per person, or can you share like your other type of pizzerias?

                        2. re: Harry Nile
                          WildSwede Jan 22, 2010 10:12 AM

                          Me too - all pizza I order is ordered well done. For that matter, French fries and onion rings, too. The little bit of extra caramelization on the toppings really enhances the flavors.

                  2. groover808 Dec 27, 2009 07:58 PM

                    Ended up going tonight and was pleasantly surprised by the pizza. Nice and chewy crust, with sufficient char on the top crust and light golden brown on the bottom. Had the Salciccia pizza with garlic sauce, sausage, carmelized onion, rapini, and mozzarella. Contrary to what others experienced, the mozzarella was nice, gooey, but not at all watery. Did seem like the pizza was finished with some olive oil on top. As far as size, it's a pretty sizeable 6 slices. You'd have to be pretty hungry to finish the whole thing.

                    We also had the eggplant appetizer (aka eggplant parm) which had good flavor and lots of their gooey mozzarella on top. The guy had their boneless ribs which were very tender, juicy, and cooked medium as specified. The dish came with a side of standard fries and some delicious chimichurri.

                    Owner Marco was very nice, I'd come back again, definitely have more pizza and maybe a pasta next time.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: groover808
                      Professor Salt Dec 28, 2009 12:48 PM

                      The salsiccia doesn't have any tomato sauce or the fior di latte, which is why it isn't soupy. I had it too, and enjoyed it despite the lack of char (at the time).

                      Try the margherita next time, and see if they also fixed the soupy issue.

                      1. re: Professor Salt
                        groover808 Dec 28, 2009 05:27 PM

                        Oh, I thought the salsiccia would have the fior di latte since it listed fresh mozz as an ingredient. I'll have to check out the margherita to see how the mozzarella behaves.

                      2. re: groover808
                        l
                        landru64 Dec 28, 2009 07:38 PM

                        i went again today for lunch. i was dying for the prosciutto and rucola pizza. it was different this time, to be sure. and i noticed his wood fire wasn't going (unless i just looked in the wrong place!). that said, the pizza was GREAT. yes, the crust in the middle got soggy quickly in the middle. but i will say i like the rest of the crust better than mozza's, which i find kind of absurd. and NO it wasn't as charred as i would like.. (but not uncharred as my first one was). but it was GREAT. big picture: it's not perfect and we can sit around like the chef's were not (or might be as the case may be) and talk about the dough is this and the cheese is this. but this is great pizza. this is a place worth going to. the pizza kills everything out there, except maybe a few of the top ones that might require a considerable amount of driving. and it will undoubtedly get better, given my short experience with it. there are tons of effete little trattorias all around greater LA that make pizzas that just suck compared to these. there are neighborhood american style pizza places that people stand in lines for that suck compared to this place. so let's just contemplate what we have here: (in the words of a wise man) "finally a real deal unpretentious artisanal pizzeria"

                        ps the empanadas passed me as i was eating and they looked incredible

                         
                        1. re: landru64
                          c
                          cdmedici Dec 28, 2009 08:06 PM

                          l am so stoked to hear that people are liking this place. I love to support these family owned places.

                          I went there on Christmas Eve day to and picked up 10 of each Empanadas to take to my moms house. They were outstanding and gone in about 10 minutes. I prefer the beef to the chicken, but both where quite good.

                          1. re: landru64
                            meltedcheese Jan 7, 2010 10:09 PM

                            I went back a second time tonight on a Thursday. About 4 tables full which I thought was pretty good considering it was the college football championship night.

                            The crust was WAY better. Black char. crispy on the bottom. I had the asparagus with a fried egg for the 1st time there and it was great. I use half the yolk on my plate to dip my crust into and half on my mashed potatoes. Someone should put a lightly cooked egg yolk on mashed potatoes instead of gravy somewhere.

                            They have more wines now, although I feel this will probably never be a strong suit.

                            Their desserts look amazing and the mother of the restaurant makes many of them by handing including a quince thick pie thing with lattice on top that looks so damn good.

                            One more thing they need to improve on. I got some pasta and some sides tonight. They were cold when I got home. I live about 5 minutes away and they should still be warm. Heat them up please. and

                            The green beans taste great but need to be cooked less- too soggy.
                            The mashed potatoes need to be creamier. It seemed like you could grab a chunk and it would break off. Not the right texture.

                            But after 3-4 weeks of being opened I can def say I will go there at least once a month. It's on the rotation. Hope it gets better and better cause we can use a good non-mexican restaurant on the westside of CM.

                        2. a
                          aklectic Jan 8, 2010 08:21 AM

                          I have been wanting to go here since I saw the opening mentioned on Stick a Fork in it blog. Read these posts and finally had the justification I needed so I checked this place out last night. We went a bit after 7pm and the place was pretty empty, there were 3 tables sat at the time and about 10 total tables.

                          What I noticed immediately is that they seemed to have taken notice of the requests for some Italian and Argentinian wines. I had an Argentinian Malbec and the fiancé had an Italian cab. Unfortunately I didn't write down the exact producer of the wine so it might not qualify as a "special" type but they tasted decent and were well-priced at $8 and $6 a glass.

                          We ordered 2 beef empanadas w/side salad ($7), the Patata pizza ($13) and the Salciccia pizza ($14). All three came out at the same time which was slightly unfortunate. We would have preferred to eat the empanadas then enjoy the pizzas after.

                          The beef empanadas were great. Blazing hot, large and filled with the classic filling of ground beef with green olives. Had a very umami flavor that I couldn’t put my finger on. It almost reminded me of a very good but not saucy Bolognese. The salad on the side was dressed perfectly with a light vinaigrette and very fresh.

                          The Patata (chili oil, pancetta, gruyere, mozz, fingerling potato, rosemary) - excellent. I make almost the same pizza at home - Flammenkuche. This was a superior version… /pout can I blame it on the 750 deg oven compared to my 550? When eating the pizza we did not get any hint of the chili oil, but we have a very high tolerance for heat. The flavors of the cheese were great, the potatoes were cooked perfectly, smashed slightly and a touch of sweetness came through. One thing that is so important with this pizza is a light hand with the rosemary, you should crave just a bit more rosemary on it. To me that is perfect and this pizza achieved that. Note that this pizza is a bit oily. This is normal to this type of pizza.

                          The Salciccia (Garlic sauce, pancetta, fresh mozz, italian sausage, caramelized onion, rapini, parsley, basil) was good. I liked the flavor of the sausage, loved the rapini but didn't get many of the flavors of the rest of the ingredients. I think this pizza fell victim to the fact that we received the app with the pizzas. We finished the empanadas and the Patata before really digging into this pizza so it was starting to be just warm instead of hot. While there was nothing wrong with this pizza. I don't think it could stand up to the huge malbec I was drinking as well as the Patata pizza, I mean what can stand up to the powerhouse of pancetta, potato, rosemary, mozz and gruyere. That's right. Nothing.

                          Crust/dough. Both were identical so putting this in one spot.

                          The cornicione had a nice puff to it, slight crispness, good chew. It had some light char with a good leoparding on it. The flavors were that of a well fermented dough. I tend to prefer a slight bit more char but I think that with this dough a longer cook or a higher temp it might make it too cracker like.

                          Overall I think this is a very needed addition in OC. I CRAVE artisanal pizza and until this, I had to make it at home or drive to LA (yeah yeah pizza e vino I’m going soon I swear) This pizza is like a mix of A16 in san fran and Mozza in LA. Lower heat cooking and larger cornicione like Mozza, but a touch wet similar to the Neapolitan style of A16.

                          I haven’t been to pizza e vino yet so I cannot compare (RSM is 45min drive from HB ugh). I would rate this at about 80% of Mozza with no wait and no drive. I think with a little time and effort this could be one of the greats.

                          I am very excited. Can’t wait to go back and try some more.

                          -----
                          Il Dolce Pizzeria
                          1902 Harbor Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92627

                          1. JAB Jan 8, 2010 12:22 PM

                            Has anyone been to both II Dolce and Pizza e Vino?

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: JAB
                              Professor Salt Jan 8, 2010 11:46 PM

                              Yes, and I prefer Pizza e Vino by a wide margin. Their crust is properly charred, and the dough is properly salted. The oven is purely wood fired, not the gas / wood hybrid at Dolce. The oven at PeV has a lower ceiling, which cooks the top of the pizza better than Dolce's. All in all, PeV's puts more attention into the details and the results are better to my taste.

                              1. re: Professor Salt
                                h
                                Harry Nile Jan 9, 2010 12:58 AM

                                Salt, what have you eaten at Pizza e Vino and Il Dolce? I haven't been to Il Dolce yet, but at PeV last night I had a very different experience from yours, apparently. (Not that it was terrible pizza, but I'll get into that later.) I wasn't going to say anything until I'd been to both places a couple of times, but your post threw me a curve, because I almost always agree with your reviews. Have you had any of PeV's pies with fennel sausage or other fatty topping, by chance?

                                1. re: Harry Nile
                                  Professor Salt Jan 9, 2010 10:13 AM

                                  We had a margherita and a prosciutto e funghi. Nothing with the sausage. Why do you ask?

                                  I liked both very much. The only nit I can pick is that the center part of the pie was a touch too wet, so the tip of the slice drooped when i picked it up.

                                  However, I find that the pizzas we had at Dolce were more than a little wet - the margherita was soupy with moisture from the fior di latte and the tomatoes. The salsiccia was better, but that's only because they use no tomato sauce on that, so the moisture problem is minimized. Overall, PeV gets my vote.

                                  1. re: Professor Salt
                                    h
                                    Harry Nile Jan 9, 2010 11:18 AM

                                    At PeV I had the fennel sausage, with bufala replacing the ordinary fresh mozzarella. The (small amount of) rendered fat plus oversaucing made the center much more than just a touch too wet. It was like certain Southern cobblers where the crust melds with the filling and creates a whole 'nother life form. But what works in a delicious cobbler -- because the crust and filling are much more substantial and retain their character -- was at first only mildly interesting in pizza and then unsatisfying. To my taste, this was a wimpy pie with a characterless crust. It made applesauce seem al dente! (I may be going slightly overboard here. ;-) Further, the grayish-tan color of much of the crust was weird (but possibly an artifact of the indoor lighting), and, unlike yours, my crust was not properly salted. That might be hard to taste with the very thin inner crust, which is swimming in the sauce and toppings. But the too-thick outer crust (evidently unpainted by sauce or olive oil) was unappealingly bland, although not completely devoid of salt.

                                    I didn't want to say this much before trying PeV again and comparing them to Il Dolce, but there you have it. I'll think and comment further after more visits.

                                    1. re: Harry Nile
                                      choctastic Jan 9, 2010 04:29 PM

                                      At PeV, I noticed that the pizza was definitely better later in the night. They take the dough out before dinner service and it takes a while for it to warm up. I made the mistake of going there first thing when it opened and the crust was denser and chewier than I had remembered. That's when they told me to come around 7pm or later for the best risen crust.

                                      As for the flavor, I have to admit that Mozza's dough has the best character, but I didn't think this one tasted like cardboard.

                                      1. re: choctastic
                                        Professor Salt Jan 9, 2010 06:54 PM

                                        Interesting point about the dough fermentation, choc. I went there at 9pm, just before closing, so I was pretty pleased with the dough develoment. It had risen very nicely. If their dough changes that drastically between 5pm and 9pm, then something's off with their formula and / or dough handling practices. I'm speaking as someone who developed dough formulas for a wholesale pizza company.

                                        I do have to say the aroma of the dough at Dolce was better - it had the smell of properly developed, slowly fermented dough. I just don't like their usual degree of doneness on the crust.

                                        Harry - sorry to hear you had such a disappointing experience. I guess I'll try one of the sausage pizzas next time and see if that was a one off bad experience.

                            2. c
                              cdmedici Jan 9, 2010 02:30 PM

                              Went back for lunch today. This is my fourth time there and I must say it gets better each time.

                              I took my father-in-law who is from a small town in Canada and is certainly not used to great pizza. It was awesome to see his face while enjoying what a great pizza can taste like.

                              I am not sure if I needed to, but I did ask for my pizza to be done extra charred. It came out exactly to my liking.

                              We went for the potato pizza (I ask for extra chili oil) and the prosciutto pizza this time.

                              We started with the meatballs and the beef empanadas (i love these and have had them everytime we have been). The meatballs were really delicious and I like the new presentation with the cheese on top.

                              We also had a new salad which wasn't on the menu. It was a quinoa salad with fennel and mushrooms and pinenuts. It was very light yet flavorful and a real nice change from your typical orzo or farro salad that one might get at an Italian restaurant

                              I took pics.

                               
                               
                               
                               
                              11 Replies
                              1. re: cdmedici
                                c
                                cdmedici Jan 9, 2010 02:35 PM

                                Woops. I post the potato pizza twice. Here is the Prosciutto Pizza

                                 
                                1. re: cdmedici
                                  k
                                  kevin Jan 9, 2010 03:48 PM

                                  what's the cheese on top of the meatballs in that picture?

                                  1. re: kevin
                                    c
                                    cdmedici Jan 9, 2010 10:19 PM

                                    I am pretty sure it must be fresh ricotta. They make there own mozzarella, so they may also make there own ricotta as well.

                                  2. re: cdmedici
                                    Professor Salt Jan 9, 2010 06:48 PM

                                    Yeah, I think asking for extra char might be the way to go at Dolce. I guess they have to make the business decision to please the people who like a California blonde crust, who probably outnumber the people who like a charred leopard crust.

                                    1. re: Professor Salt
                                      bernardo Jan 9, 2010 07:26 PM

                                      Truth be told I prefer Pizza Metro in Vico Equense http://www.pizzametro.it/ but I don't find the CPK corruption that bad either, although Sammy's is 10x better. So what do Dolce & PeV really bring to the table if might be so bold as to inquire?

                                      1. re: bernardo
                                        Professor Salt Jan 9, 2010 08:47 PM

                                        I guess a lot of it has to do with the pizza one grew up with. CPK's slightly sweet profile, baked blonde on the bottom, soft textured crumb isn't what I grew up with and not my personal preference. Being a New Yorker, I like a bottom with dark color and charred leopard spots. Two local examples are Joe's in Santa Monica, or Mozza (stylistically different animals, but trying to keep my examples relevant to L.A.).

                                        To answer your question, what PeV and Dolce bring to the table is care in the preparation. For starters, dough that's been fermented slowly to develop that subtle sweetness that wheat flour has when yeast and enyzmes work overnight to do its job, rather than the rushed, sugar-assisted two hour rise that most pizza shops use.

                                        There's the careful hand stretching of the dough. That retains the microbubbles that grew during fermentation, and those blow up into random sized holes in the heat of the oven. Very much like artisanal bread, I want and expect a lot of voids, both large and small, in my pizza crust. If you apply a rolling pin or a dough press (which is what CPK uses), then all those microbubbles get squashed and you end up with a uniform, white-bread like texture. Again, if that's your preference, that's fine. It's just not my thing.

                                        Almost every ordinary pizza shop drops its raw dough on a screen and bakes on it. That's done more for ease of handling and reduced waste when your cooks are minimally trained high school kids. Sliding raw dough off a peel takes finesse, and baking dough directly on 600F brick floor is what gets that dark bottom, charred finish I prefer. So the fact that places like Mozza, PeV, Dolce, et al, are doing this is an enormous step in the right direction IMO.

                                        Cheeses - PeV uses Gioia's mozzarella and burrata, picked up daily by the owner. The flavor and creamy texture of Gioia's burrata is a short lived wonder, and the fact they care enough to drive up from South OC to South El Monte every day is amazing to me. Dolce makes their own fior di latte, again impressive, I just think they still need to refine that process to remove more moisture before they put it on pizza.

                                        Olive oil - both PeV and Dolce are putting high quality extra virgin olive oil on the table, not some shit olive oil "blend." The chefs' priority isn't lowering food cost and boosting profit margin on the oil, and that's a win for us.

                                        I can't comment on Sammy's food because I've never been. I know their schtick is wood fired ovens, but really that's marketing BS. Because it's a chain, I can guarantee they use a gas fired oven and they throw some wood in there for truth in marketing. PeV actually uses an oven from Italy that's purely fired with wood. Heat management requires a much higher degree of skill with a pure wood oven, which is why you'll never see one at a multi unit chain. When PeV's pizzaiolo throws in a stick of wood that's been dried fully, it flares up quickly, burns intensely hot and throws off a thick smoke that blankets the roof of the oven. I can actually taste a subtle smoke on my PeV pizza.

                                        I can go on and make this more tiresome if you want, but I hope I've made my point about what these artisanal pizza places bring to the table. Bad pizza is easy to make, and any schmuck with a dollar and a dream can open a mediocre pizza place and make a living at it. Great pizza takes a lot of care and know how at every step in the process.

                                        1. re: Professor Salt
                                          c
                                          cdmedici Jan 9, 2010 10:20 PM

                                          Touche Professor.

                                          Some of my friends think I am nuts when I talk about really good pizza as they are quite content with Pizza Hut etc. Great pizza is a true art form.

                                          1. re: Professor Salt
                                            h
                                            Harry Nile Jan 10, 2010 05:33 AM

                                            That's a hell of a report, Salt. I hope we're paying you enough! ;-)

                                            I also hope my first visit to PeV (on a busy Friday evening) merely caught them in a bad-dough moment. I look forward to trying again and comparing them to what seems to be an ever-improving Il Dolce. It's great to be able to have these kinds of discussions about OC pizza, and I'd love to see BBQ places over there raising the same kind of interest.

                                            1. re: Professor Salt
                                              bernardo Jan 10, 2010 03:55 PM

                                              I must say you have a way of sparking curiosity, Dolce's on the list, voids, char and all that. Seriously, though, the chains -- Sammy's, CPK, Wolfgang, Z pizza -- have become noticeably sloppy and taking more shortcuts of late. It may not matter when you're out with a group and expectations are low, perhaps dining alone one could be more perceptive & dare I say selective. But at the end of the day pizza is still subjective, with some swearing by while others detesting Casa Bianca, Ciaoti, La Bottega Marino & what not. Different strokes perhaps.

                                              1. re: bernardo
                                                The Chowhound Team Jan 22, 2010 09:24 PM

                                                Folks, we removed a lengthy tangent discussing the validity of other review sites, opinions by third party reviewers, and reviews of of review theory. This sort of meta discussion detracts from our mission here: voicing your own opinion of the food.

                                                Please let's get back to discussing the food, not discussing the discussion of food.

                                        2. re: cdmedici
                                          christoofat Jan 11, 2010 07:23 AM

                                          Really want to try this place out soon.
                                          What's the crowd level there during lunch time? Aim to get there around 11:45.
                                          I've been to PeV & really enjoyed it, so am anxious to give Il Dolce a taste.

                                        3. h
                                          Harry Nile Jan 11, 2010 11:20 AM

                                          Does anyone know if Il Dolce is open continuously from lunch through dinner? I can't find their hours anywhere.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: Harry Nile
                                            c
                                            cdmedici Jan 11, 2010 01:16 PM

                                            Too answer both christoofat and Harry.

                                            I have been there four times and have never seen it too busy. Sad really. It deserves to be.

                                            I think they open at 11:30 and they are open continuously.

                                            1. re: cdmedici
                                              h
                                              Harry Nile Jan 11, 2010 06:15 PM

                                              Thanks -- I'll try to get over there this week.

                                              1. re: cdmedici
                                                christoofat Jan 13, 2010 09:30 AM

                                                Thanks, myself & two work mates are headed there today for lunch, will report back.

                                                1. re: christoofat
                                                  christoofat Jan 13, 2010 12:32 PM

                                                  OK, we just got back from there. Excellent pizza!! We got a farro salad ( very good flavors & textures, was seasoned perfectly) a caprese salad (was OK. IMO, but kind of skimped on the tomatoes & basil. The Moz was good, but I felt that the $11 was a bit high for this dish. Perhaps when tomatoes are in season, it will prove to be more worth it.
                                                  We ordered a salciccia & an al funghi & asked for "extra char" on the bottom. The smell of the freshly baked pies was wonderful, and they tasted even better. The crust I thought was pretty close to what I consider perfect - good flavor, not soggy, still some "give" when you bite in. This is the kind of pizza that you take your time eating, so you explore the different levels of taste & texture. It was really hard not being able to have a glass of red wine with this meal, will most definitely go back for dinnertime soon. We were the only people there until around noon, when another party of 4 came in, and some take out orders came in. We overheard the other dine in group also ordering their pie "well done". The son was our waiter, his mom & dad work the kitchen. This place is very clean & simple, has what looks to be a killer espresso machine & the desserts in the cold case look scrumptious (I didn't indulge...this time)
                                                  All of us enjoyed our food & plan on a return visit quite soon! This place needs customers!!! Apply within....often!!

                                                  1. re: christoofat
                                                    JAB Jan 13, 2010 12:47 PM

                                                    And compared to Pizza e Vino?

                                                    1. re: JAB
                                                      christoofat Jan 14, 2010 06:23 AM

                                                      To be fair, it been several months since I've been to PeV, so my "taste memory" is a bit rusty by now. I want to go back there soon & do a comparo.
                                                      From the top of my head, I would say that they are pretty close, with an edge to PeV for the crust & the true wood fired oven.
                                                      Either way, I feel OC'ers are lucky enough to have two such places that can provide pies that are made with care & quality ingredients using the proper equipment.

                                            2. k
                                              karynx78 Jan 11, 2010 04:33 PM

                                              Awesome review cdmedici! I am looking forward to trying this place. I have tried Mozza in LA and have actually had Napoli Style pizza in Naples, Italy. Was wondering when a place like this would open. Very excited

                                              1. n
                                                Nootka Jan 16, 2010 08:56 AM

                                                Has anyone tried the pastas yet? I'm looking for a place to carb-up before a race, and this place looks great. But just in case my wife doesn't want pizza, I'd like to know how well they execute their pastas.

                                                1. m
                                                  mrsjoujou Jan 22, 2010 07:18 AM

                                                  We tried this place last sat and it was just OK. The farro salad was so dry and needed some seasoning and vinegarette. The sausage pizza was Ok, but we didn't taste any garlic sauce and saw one tiny piece of pancetta in the whole pizza. We asked for extra char and still got a pizza that was soft in a middle and jut too much dough for our taste. The next day we had brunch at Gjelina in Venice and their pizza looked amazing with a great char. The service at il dolce was so slow and not polished at all. I know this is a family run, but the prices are not cheap and the food and service should match the prices.

                                                  1. j
                                                    js76wisco Jan 22, 2010 01:48 PM

                                                    Went here for lunch with 4 other guys today. The space and interior is nice. I'm rooting for the business to succeed but I think they have a long way to go. The staff seems disorganized and not very well structured. Almost all of the tables were filled for lunch at 12:30. Getting utensils, drink orders, pacing of food, etc... were not good. It didn't bother us but I could see them losing some repeat business until they get these front of the house type issues rectified. The son and mother were the waiters, greeters, busboys and cashiers. Maybe they need some help?

                                                    Onto the food. We ordered 4 pizzas well done as suggested by many on the board.
                                                    1. margherita - very good. Compared favorably to Ortica and Antica. The one complaint is that this was not well done and a bit soggy in the middle. The flavor of the pizza was excellent though.
                                                    2. salsiccia - the flavors didn't meld well for me. The garlic seems to overwhelm all of the other flavors and didn't taste the sausage even though there was a healthy portion.
                                                    3. arugala and proscuitto - excellent pizza. This is better than the antica version because they have some sauce and cheese below the proscuitto. The proscuitto was also cut along the slice lines so it was easier to cut away slices.
                                                    4. funghi - the best of the bunch. The olive oil and mix of mushrooms and cheese was lovely. Not quite as good as Mozza but highly recommend.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: js76wisco
                                                      Tapeworm Jan 22, 2010 02:12 PM

                                                      The place was probably busy today since there was the review by Elmo in the OC Weekly yesterday. Monday was pretty empty, but it was MLK and the rain was really crazy in the area.

                                                      1. re: Tapeworm
                                                        j
                                                        js76wisco Jan 22, 2010 03:48 PM

                                                        Ok. I would have given them the benefit of the doubt anyway since they are still getting their feet under them. The food was good and the spotty service was just discombobulated not terrible, mean or lazy. If they get it together this is a nice spot in Costa Mesa.

                                                    2. jroxybabe19 Feb 28, 2010 12:26 PM

                                                      The service was TERRIBLE!
                                                      After 20 minutes of sitting at a table with no menu, no water, no "sorry we are running a little behind" we walked out.
                                                      Will never go back.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: jroxybabe19
                                                        k
                                                        kevin Feb 28, 2010 12:44 PM

                                                        i agree, service for some reason was not that good at all, and additionally the Margherita pizza was just not that great.

                                                        1. re: jroxybabe19
                                                          Professor Salt Feb 28, 2010 07:20 PM

                                                          Try Pizza e Vino in Rancho Santa Margarita. Food is better the times I've been, and so is the service. I agree the service at Il Dolce early on was well meaning but slow and amateurish. I haven't been there in a couple months, so haven't experienced it lately.

                                                          1. re: Professor Salt
                                                            christoofat Mar 1, 2010 07:14 AM

                                                            Still have not been there yet for dinner, but we got back there a week ago for a birthday lunch w/ 3 friends. We could smell the almond wood smoke out in the parking lot.They had two waiters there, one was obviously new & in training, but the flow of service was fine for us, anyways. Two of us had paninis, (both eaters gave thumbs up, although one of the sandwiches sent out was the wrong one), the other two had pizzas, a patata (mine)& a proscuitto e rucola (hers). She, who is tiny & normally brings back most of her lunches for leftovers dinner, scarfed the entire thing by herself! My patata was perfect, the ingredients seemed enough to satisfy, atop that lovely crust.

                                                        2. n
                                                          Nootka Jun 12, 2010 08:45 AM

                                                          I went here in February and was completely underwhelmed. I ordered the pizza well done based on advice here, and it still came out pale blonde and soggy. The ingredients on the pizza were good, but the crust was basically a joke.

                                                          My wife ordered a pasta and it was one of the worst pasta dishes either of us had ever tasted. The noodles were so overcooked they were the consistency of school cafeteria spaghetti-mush. To make matters worse, they completely over-sauced the pasta. It was basically mush-soup.

                                                          And yeah, as others have mentioned, the service was pretty bad: slow and oblivious.

                                                          1. bernardo Jun 12, 2010 03:52 PM

                                                            So finally had the chance to stop in for lunch today. We had a Margherita with mushies (ordered extra crispy), large bottle of Pellegrino and a mixed greens side salad. Pizza verdict: Perfect crust, good ingredients but very skimpy (had to search for mushies), and runnier than we expected even after cooling. Skimpier than anything we had in Italy and boy, have we've eaten a lot of pizza all over Italy. Salad just OK, Pellegrino at $8 higher than at most upscale joints. Strongest point IOHO was friendly and attentive service.
                                                            Bottom line: Tasty pizza with as good a crust as you're likely to find anywhere, but at $35+ with tip a rather questionable value for a somewhat skimpy lunch in pedestrian digs on a noisy blvd. We might give it a second try if we happened to be in the neighborhood, but that's about it.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: bernardo
                                                              k
                                                              kevin Jun 13, 2010 05:58 PM

                                                              a.lmost my sentiments exactly though i didn't like the pizza as much as u did.

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