Even though Giuseppe Bavarese opened Caffe Dolce to give locals a "fine dining" option outside of a hotel, he hesitates to put an upscale label on the restaurant.
Instead, he says, Caffe Dolce, 5875 S. Rainbow Blvd., is a casual restaurant with upscale Italian food.
"It's a little bit of both. In this economy, I'm afraid to say fine dining," Bavarese says. "People will think it's too expensive, which it's not."
Bavarese, a dessert distributor, owned restaurants and clubs in Los Angeles, but Caffe Dolce is his first local venture. He took ownership four months ago from a client of his dessert business. A few weeks ago, Bavarese brought in a new executive chef from Italy, Antonio Mancuso.
The menu is artisan Italian, Bavarese says, with an emphasis on the cuisine of Rome. They serve pizza, pasta, seafood and panini.
The dining room seats 80 with an additional 70 seats in the atrium. The patio is Bavarese's favorite part of the restaurant, as it's enclosed but gives the feeling of dining outdoors.
Reservations aren't necessary but are recommended. The restaurant is open for lunch Mondays through Saturdays, 10:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., then for dinner at 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. It is closed Sundays.
Specialties: Eggplant involtino with grapes, apples, walnuts and ricotta cheese served in a fresh tomato sauce, $8.95; bell pepper soup with baked cheese, $6; tart with shrimp, crab meat, scallops and spinach, $23.95
Appetizers: Prosciutto and melon, $9; antipasto misto, $9; crostini with bruschetta and proscuitto, $10
Soups and salads: Roasted tomato soup with artisan bread, $6; Caesar salad, $8; minestrone, $5
Entrees: Chicken parmigiana, $16; rack of lamb, $24; wood-fired pizzas, $9 to $12; grilled chicken panini, $10
Desserts: Assorted gelato and sorbet, $5; tiramisu, $6; cannoli, $6 cheesecake, $6
By SONYA PADGETT