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La Dolce Vita

/ Updated on July 30, 2017
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One of my favorite Foodies-at-Arms often expresses a hankerin’ for “good red-sauce Italian.” Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of places around here (only two come to mind) that successfully fulfill that need, so he’s always on the lookout. Apparently the last time he was looking out with powerful binoculars, because La Dolce Vita in Long Neck was suddenly the subject at hand. In fact, over the past several years I’ve received a number of emails suggesting that I check out La Dolce Vita. Most of your emails cited fair prices, large portions and consistently decent food. It’s taken me this long to motor out to Long Neck a few times to see what the place is all about. And I’m glad I did. In fact we are now regulars there.

Is this haute cuisine? Elegant fine dining? No & no. But it is family friendly and informal, with expertly prepared Italian served with a smile.

The restaurant is on the left about 2-3 blocks south of Rt. 24 on Long Neck Road (turn left if you’re coming from Lewes or Rehoboth Beach) at the end of a little strip center. Many years ago it was home to the Villa Rosa restaurant operated first by Chef Joe Sapienza’s grandfather, then his father, then Joe himself (Joe eventually moved on to be the opening chef, along with Gary Papp, at The Brick Hotel in Georgetown).

Around 2007, the space was sold to Kathy and Don Wood (she was an alumnus of the Eagle’s Nest) and they renamed it Ciao Bella. Similar concept; family style Italian. Their claims to fame were (1) 100% fresh stocks and sauces, and (2) their host Kevin, a local character who drew lots of people into the spot.

In early 2010 the space became home to La Dolce Vita. Vincenzo “Pop” Beddia and his son Faicel prepare all the sauces in the pan to-order, except of course for the marinara which must have time to simmer. Commentary on the Internet is predominantly positive, with very few complaints other than how long it sometimes takes to get a table. That’s a compliment.

One of the stars of the appetizer show is the Italian Wedding Soup. It is perfectly savory, and the tiny meatballs are plentiful and tender. Leafy greens, carrot chunks and bits of chicken make this a particularly satisfying soup. In fact, it’s one of the best we’ve had anywhere. Another tasty (if not filling) appetizer is the Garlic Bread with Cheese. Nothing fancy, but quite good, with lots of creamy cheese. Bread & cheese: The perfect bite in any language.

The dinner salad is cool and fresh, dressed in a basic but tasty balsamic vinaigrette. Bitter greens are a nice value-added.

My go-to dish on any first visit to “red sauce Italian” is the parms. If they can’t manage a decent parm, then they can’t manage anything. So I started with the Veal Parmesan. The portion is generous, and the preparation delightful. I opted for what they call the “diablo” version (slight upcharge, no big deal) which uses a peppery/spicy sauce. (Technically the proper term for that sort of preparation is “diavolo.” Just sayin’….) If you like spicy, get that sauce. The veal is pounded out to a perfect thickness, thus preserving the all-important meat-to-breading ratio. A thin layer of sauce is covered by what appeared to be a combination of gently melted provolone, mozzarella and perhaps meunster. Either way, it was creamy and delicious. A  hunk of crunchy garlic bread shares the plate.

On our following trip I couldn’t get anybody to order anything with meatballs or hot Italian sausage (additional go-to items for me), so I ordered one of each on the side. I did that selflessly for you, dear Visitor. There are several surprisingly unlikely places in Rehoboth Beach that have wonderful meatballs, and I now add La Dolce Vita to that list. The meatball is tender and not at all tough, with a satisfying blend of spices.  The large cut of hot sausage is surprisingly lean and cuts easily with the side of a fork. When they say “hot,” they mean hot. Get ready for a happy kick from this one. I wonder if they will let me order the Veal Parm with hot Italian sausage on top? [Yes they did, though they looked askance –F.]

The main course on that visit was Chicken Piccata. Two (count ’em, 2) chicken breasts are sauteed with white wine, lemon and capers. A side of angel hair pasta shares the plate. A little curlycue of lemon is perched atop it all, making for an attractive presentation. Two dishes deserve a mention, and are tied for stars of the Marsala show: The Veal & Shrimp Marsala enjoys a cream mushroom wine sauce, and is finished in the oven for a golden hue. A similar preparation works for the Chicken and Shrimp Marsala. The only difference is chicken instead of veal. Both dishes are quite good.

If I had one gripe, it would probably be with the spaghetti that came with my veal parm on the first visit. It was unnecessarily thick, undercooked and under-sauced. It did not measure up to that great parm dish. Well, wouldn’t you know it, Pops read my article, and the thick spaghetti I whined about has been replaced with angel hair pasta. It is delicate, and on every visit, perfectly cooked and not overly sauced.  Thanks, Pops. You sure know how to work a food writer!

I had the four-cheese lasagne and it was perfectly done. The creamy ricotta was not drowned out by the marinara which looks somewhat heavy, but is not. I couldn’t resist getting that nice hot Italian sausage with it.

Our vegetarian companion (who is never without a tree branch or a couple of acorns upon which to nibble) had the evening’s special: House-made gnocchi with pesto, artichokes and sun dried tomatoes. We politely shared a bite and it was quite good. I would stand that up against any other Italian restaurant here at the beach, no exceptions. Her companion ordered the Eggplant Parmesan. I usually don’t like Italian dishes with eggplant because the fruit (technically a berry) always seems to end up wet and slimy. Eggplant can get that way if not cooked properly — but this was cooked perfectly. Moderately sized rounds are sautéed to a crispy bite and treated as a parm should be treated. In spite of the creamy cheese and the marinara, the eggplant stayed firm, crispy and held its shape. Angel hair and a chunk of garlic bread (also graced with a dollop of marinara) accompanied.

Last and certainly not least was an order of Spaghetti & Meatballs. Simple, but perfect. And the meatballs were exactly the same as we had had over the previous several weeks. Feelin’ frisky? Get one meatball and the hot Italian sausage. Why not. You’re at the beach!

Apparently they make their cannolis there, and the one was shared was very nice. What stood out is that it wasn’t too sweet. You could actually taste the cheese.

Cross your fingers that they have the Seafood Diablo (Diavolo!) on the menu if you go. Truth be told, we did not get it, but all three occupants of an adjoining table did, and they loved it. How do I know that? I walked right over there and asked them. What’s the worst that can happen!?!?!

The Tiramisu is homemade and tasty. It is not too winey, and has a tender, fresh texture. The presentation is a work of art.

La Dolce Vita is at 32369 Long Neck Road on the street-end of a little sideways strip center on the left. You can’t miss it. It’s obviously a neighborhood, family friendly place, but from what I have experienced and what I’ve read, they do a consistently good job crankin’ out the red sauce Italian.

These people consistently deliver on their promise of good, reasonably priced food and I’ve awarded them 5 stars for that. They deserve it.

At present they are open 3:30 – 8 weeknights and 3:30 – 9 weekends. Early birds get half-portions for a flat $10 from a limited menu. They do not serve lunch. Call to check their expanded in-season hours at 302-945-5008. (D, no bar, but they do serve alcohol, of course.) Price range: Moderate +.

The Rehoboth Foodie

About the Author

"My goal is to promote Rehoboth Beach dining while remaining honest and impartial. I don’t gush unless a place deserves it, and I don’t pull punches, either. With so many good places to eat around here, it just doesn’t make sense to waste the calories — or the money — on anything less." View all articles written by The Rehoboth Foodie

Add Your Comment
  1. Sherry Hare says:

    Our first visit and surely not our last……on a chance we stop in for dinner tonight…we are very new to the area and had not ever heard of this restrauant…
    By far the very best Italian meal we have ever had……looking forward to many years of enjoying the food they have to offer…..thanks for a wonderful time a fantastic food….could not ask for a better experience…

  2. Joe and Mickey says:

    We moved in the area 3 years ago and have tried many of the restaurants. This by far is the most reliable. The food keeps getting better Not a very large wine selection but the prices are great. I think I have tried everything on their menu. My wife loves their salmon which is grilled to perfection. My choice it the veal alaska. As for dessert, any one of them is a perfect ending.

  3. Julie says:

    Thank you Rehoboth Foodie for your review of Dolce Vita. I have lived here 3 years and never knew this place existed. I was looking for a new Italian restaurant, read your review and decided to check it out. I’ve now been there 3 times and each time the food has been delicious, the portion sizes have been ample, and the employees are always gracious, attentive, and professional. I think the chicken parm is bar-none the best in town! The food is always fresh and nicely presented. I haven’t been there for the early-bird specials but the prices are incredible if you like an early-dinner. This place is a great stop when you want a nice dining experience without dealing with all the weekend beach/downtown traffic. I like La Dolce Vita so much, I believe it’s going to become my new go to place for phoning in take-out dinner when I don’t feel like cooking.

    • Bernard says:

      The early bird specials are really mini meals and this is not advertised,

      As for the phenomenal review of the eggplant, i thought it was just ok.

      Sorry but my type of eggplant parm is thinly sliced and has very little breading. The version here is very thick- just a preference i guess.

  4. Lynn Stanley says:

    Ate here recently because it was supposed to have “the best eggplant parm”. I have to whole heartedly disagree. I’m italian, so maybe the Foodie is not, and that’s contributing to his “best of” review. Or, maybe there just isn’t any really good eggplant parm to be had around here, and La Dolce Vita’s is as close as you can get in the area. But, for me it didn’t even come close to hitting the mark.

    It consisted of four slices (on the thick side) of fried eggplant placed in a row along the plate, some MEAT sauce placed on top and then some mozzarella on top of that. To me that’s not eggplant parm! Eggplant parmigiana is LAYERED; fried eggplant (sliced thinner), some tomato (not MEAT) sauce, mozzarella, provolone, locatelli (or parmesan cheese), and repeat these layers for at least 3 or 4 layers.

    Sorry, Rehoboth Foodie, when you find a genuine eggplant parm, I’d LOVE to try it, it is my favorite meal!

    • Bernard says:

      Try Touch of Italy on Route 1 near Nage

      Great eggplant parm the way you described!

      • The Rehoboth Foodie The Rehoboth Foodie says:

        Bernard..
        Thanks for your insightful comments. So many different ways to prepare eggplant, but the best way in my opinion is breading and frying! I do prefer the thicker, more crispy slices at La Dolce Vita, but I will admit that the Eggplant Stack at Touch of Italy is also quite good.

  5. Gladys Ward says:

    Enjoy this place, as do many friends. Their hot sausage is the best anywhere, and the chicken parm is my go-to favorite. Like that their wine by the glass is a big pour. Vince and his staff are always warm and welcoming, too.

  6. TOM GROSS Concierge says:

    Excellent food. I have eaten here several times and always had a great experience.

  7. Leslie Beall says:

    What a find! We went to this restaurant about 12 years ago and it was mediocre so we never returned. Thanks to the RF we’ve found our new favorite restaurant. This is by far the best Italian restaurant in the area. The service was great and the food was even better. The complementary bread and olives was followed by Italian Wedding soup – which was fantastic. I had the House-made gnocchi with pesto, artichokes and sun dried tomatoes. It was well sauced, delicious and the gnocchi were excellent. Our friend had the Seafood Diablo and raved about it. My husband had the Veal Parm and said it was one of the best ever. The servings were so generous that we all took home half of our dinners – so we’ll be able to enjoy it again tonight. I can’t wait to go back and try some of their other dishes. I would give La Dolce Vita a 10+!

    • Julie says:

      I believe it was under different ownership when you tried it long ago. The current owners have been there about 4 years.

      • The Rehoboth Foodie The Rehoboth Foodie says:

        No, My review of La Dolce Vita was written under the same ownership as it is now; Vincens “Pops” Bedia and his son. They also have a pizza place in the strip center next to the BJ’s in Millsboro. I’m glad you like the place. It is my secret go-to place when I want to just relax.

  8. Susan Diener says:

    I have eaten here several times-and I’m always glad I did. The atmosphere is cozy, and you feel like family-typical Italian! The food is wonderful, and you will experience something new. I had Talapia topped with balsamic onions the last time-fabulous and not over-filling. My favorite Italian restaurant anywhere-hands down. If you hate olives-try his-he makes them himself.

  9. Smoking Jack says:

    First time there last evening and best eggplant parm I’ve had anywhere in Saltwater Sussex County.

  10. Sam Reklaw says:

    We visited in April and it was so good we returned with friends in May. I had the Veal Parm the first time. It was outstanding. Thin, crisp and flavorful. I didn’t really eat much of the angel hair pasta, which didn’t have enough sauce, because the veal was so good and plentiful. My husband had the Chicken Parm which was equally as good. On the next visit I had the rockfish and crab in the cream sauce. It was a little too heavy for me but the flavor was good. I want to try everything on the menu and I don’t expect anything to be bad. My husband had the Lasagna. It was thick and full of cheese. He enjoyed it very much. My friends had the Veal Parm and the Veal Alaska. They both loved their dishes and took home leftovers. They thanked us many times for taking them there. I don’t think I could completely finish their portions in one sitting. I happy that I have a lunch for another day! I would highly recommend this establishment.

  11. Norm Whiteley says:

    This has been our favorite restaurant in the Long Neck area for the past several years. We’ve never gotten a bad meal. It’s always great!

  12. Mike Brown says:

    This place has been very consistent. It is always very good. My wife loves the marsala and I love everything else. The seafood is always very fresh and flavorful. The atmosphere is like family. I have never eaten better Italian food, even in Italy.

  13. T&T says:

    Well, Foodie, you’re spot-on once again. We packed up the kids and hauled out to Long Neck to see if you knew what you were talking about. And you were right!
    This place should be in downtown Lewes. It would put a few places there to shame. We’re going again this weekend.
    By the way, we tried the house chianti. Delicious, with a slight whisper of sweet cherries.

  14. Patty says:

    We love La Dolce Vita. We usually go once a week. Great food, reasonably priced. Chicken Piccata, eggplant parm, linguini in white clam sauce are my favorites. My husband enjoys the eggplant parm, seafood diavolo, and chicken parm. Wines are reasonably priced too! You’re right, the tiramisu is very good as well as the cannoli. Vincenzo is the best!!So glad you found him, he deserves recognition.

  15. Janet Chubrick says:

    Glad you finally got around to reviewing my favorite Italian restaurant. Another test of a good Italian restaurant is their Lasagna and La Dolce’s is wonderful along with the Eggplant Parm. My favorite appetizer is fried calamari and also love their caprese salad.

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