Logan Circle just got a glamorous destination for Mediterranean coast favorites like Deluxe Iberian Ham, Beef Souvlaki, Chicken Tagine, Orzo Risotto, and Mint Spritz.
Dolce Vita kicked off the dinner service last week in the high-profile space formerly known as happy hour hotspot Ghibellina (1610 14th Street NW). With a new look and a stunning fusion menu that features flavors from four countries (Italy, Greece, Morocco and Spain), Dolce Vita represents restaurateur DC Med Lahlou’s sixth and most ambitious project to date. While its neighbors Lupo Verde and Lupo Pizzeria are all Italian, Dolce Vita’s menu casts a much wider net across the Mediterranean.
âWe try to bring the best from each country and its cuisine,â Lahlou told Eater.
As a child, Lahlou traveled extensively across Europe with his French-born mother and Moroccan father, and has long wanted to bring a taste of his heritage to DC. The Lahlou Restaurant Group town empire includes Lupo Verde Osteria in the Palisades, Lupo Marino on the Quayside, and Tunnicliff’s Tavern on Capitol Hill.
At Dolce Vita, diners can deposit $ 45 to sample four-ounce servings of Spain’s premier pork. Known as jamÃ³n ibÃ©rico de bellota, the high-browed ham sliced âânext to the table features white ribbons of fat that flow between its dark red meat.
Lahlou Executive Chef Juan Olivera worked with Dolce Vita Executive Chef and Del Mar alumnus Elier Rodriguez to create a one-page menu divided into meze; salad and vegetarian; and the âwood-fired ovenâ headings.
Moroccan harissa pepper paste makes appearances in dishes of raw tuna, potatoes, sardines, and cauliflower. Spain’s beloved baby squid, called chipirÃ³nes, comes with mahogany-colored hazelnut rice and egg yolk. Lamb nuggets with tzatziki cream are also a good way to start. Moussaka is the Greek answer to lasagna, made with ground lamb, eggplant, bÃ©chamel and cinnamon. An octopus gnocchi makes the spicy ‘nduja sausage from southern Italy shine.
The common thread across the Mediterranean hopping menu is a wood-fired oven sitting prominently in the back, tasked with cooking whole meat and fish dishes ($ 28 to $ 65). A branzino flanked by tangy Moroccan herb chermoula is served with couscous and seasonal vegetables, while an oven-baked sea bream in a salt crust accompanies potatoes in olive oil and smoked paprika.
The design is an equally transporting experience, offering a visual tour of the Mediterranean through painted landscapes of idyllic coastal towns splashed onto its brick walls. Images of famous Italian comedian Toto and actress Sophia Loren welcome guests to a 150-seat dining room dotted with navy blue chairs and a large communal table for gathering friends at the bar. An elegant upstairs dining area covered with collages from fashion magazines adds 80 additional seats.
âWe brought in a lot of Mediterranean style – lots of great rustic bricks, chandeliers and the wood-burning oven. All the finishes have been carefully thought out, âhe says.
The cocktail and wine lists follow the lead of the menu, showing the love for spirits, fruits and grapes from the four countries and beyond.
âThis cuisine that we have here screams wine and dines all day,â says Dolce Vita bar manager Daniel Omana.
Toto’s namesake cocktail naturally features Italian ingredients (Antica vermouth, Amaro Montenegro, tangerine, lemon and basil), as well as Tito’s as a playful riff on its name. The bitters of Peychaud also add an American touch to the Peppino Sorrentino cocktail, a tribute to Italy with Limoncello dell’Isola, lemon and prosecco. Fans of Spanish sangria can find white and red options.
A Moroccan Spritzer is the ultimate fusion cocktail, composed of Tanqueray, Aperol, Massaya arak, mandarin, prosecco, club soda and mint syrup that it makes on site. âMint is king in Morocco,â says Omana.
Tripling on 14th Street NW was obvious to Lahlou.
âI call it DC’s Wall Street. The neighborhood is amazing and there is nothing like it here. We are killing four birds with one stone, âhe said.
The bar program also invites Lebanon to have fun and presents the aniseed arak from the neighboring country and reds from the Bekaa valley that appeal to everyone.
The 150-bottle wine list leaves room for big names in Napa like Stag’s Leap and Silver Oak. The sprawling wall of spirits behind the 19-seat bar also weaves its way into unexpected gems like aged rums, rare agaves and vodkas, and single malt scotches, Omana notes.