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UPDATED: Dolce Riviera, new modern Italian restaurant in Harwood District near downtown Dallas, worth a visit


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dolce-riviera-copyright-michael-hiller-13 dolce-riviera-copyright-michael-hiller-14A new Italian restaurant has quietly opened near downtown Dallas that should be on your short list of restaurants to visit ASAP.

Dolce Riviera (“Sweet Riviera”), a modern Italian restaurant with a talented chef and seaside feel, occupies a prime spice in the 18-block Harwood District on the western edge of downtown. It’s tucked in a quiet alcove of the Frost Bank Building. You need to get here before everyone else discovers it.

Done up in a palette of creamy whites, pastel blues and soft, honeyed lighting, Dolce Riviera is a real looker. An indoor-outdoor bar spills onto a garden patio with tightly manicured greenery and carved stone fountains. Inside the restaurant’s tiny dining room, waiters in crisp uniforms deliver plates of impeccably fresh Mediterranean seafood, al dente pastas and carefully cooked meats.

Come take a walk through the space with me >

The menu is from the chef Christian Sbordi (pictured), a native of Milan, Italy, who cooked throughout Italy then at NYC’s Michelin-starred Fiamma Osteria before following his wife to Dallas, her hometown.

“The food I’m doing here is true modern Italian, the kind of food Italians are eating right now all through Italy,” Sbordi told me after a dinner that included salmon tartare (yes, that’s served in Italy now), sesame-crusted tuna, cocoa-spiked paparadelle (with Parmegiano, speck ham and Alba truffles), a plate of terrific cacio e pepe (the classic Roman pasta dish sauced with Pecorino cheese and black pepper — Sbordi serves his twirled in a soft parmesan cup) and a grilled prime rib-eye fragrant with garlic (a real bargain at $46).

“Don’t even ask for chicken Parm or marsala or anything that’s more American than it is Italian,” said Sbordi. “The goal is to serve authentic Italian food and do it right.”

“The entire design team spent a lot of time along the Italian Riviera to understand the feel and cuisine of the region and bring it back here,” said Harwood spokesman Jessica Young.

For now, Dolce Riviera is only open for dinner and tightly controlling the seating. Reservations for the dining room are required (reserve one here), but you can order food at the cocktail bar and on the patio without a reservation.

Don’t let the limited number of tables dissuade you one bit. You will love, love, love this place. The space is gorgeous, service is attentive (with the amiable GM Danilo Di Nardo in charge), the wine list offers some bargains (even by the glass) and Sbordi’s cooking — especially his pastas — will knock you off your seat.

As cooler weather approaches and the restaurant swings open its accordion of glass patio doors, you might imagine yourself dining al fresco on the Riviera. Dallas, Italy: No beach umbrella needed.

UPDATE: I’m hearing from Hatch fans who’ve since visited Dolce Riviera that the food has been uneven. “But it’s only been open for a week, so they’ll get it right,” says one. “Absolutely love the look, we’ll definitely go back,” writes another. 

UPDATE 2: I returned again two weeks after my initial post and found the restaurant to be nearly as solid as my first encounter. Go.

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2950 N. Harwood St., Dallas. (469) 458 6623.

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