Logan Circle just got a glamorous destination for coastal Mediterranean favorites like luxe iberico ham, beef souvlaki, chicken tagine, orzo risotto, and minty spritzes.
Dolce Vita kicked off dinner service last week in the high-profile space formerly known as happy hour hotspot Ghibellina (1610 14th Street NW). With a show-stopping new look and fusion menu that features flavors from four countries (Italy, Greece, Morocco, and Spain), Dolce Vita represents D.C. restaurateur Med Lahlou’s sixth and most ambitious project to date. While his nearby Lupo Verde and Lupo Pizzeria are all about Italian, Dolce Vita’s menu casts a much wider net across the Mediterranean.
“We’re trying to bring the best of each country and its cuisine,” Lahlou tells Eater.
As a kid, Lahlou traveled extensively throughout Europe with his French-born mother and Moroccan father and has long wanted to bring a taste of his heritage to D.C. In addition to his 14th Street NW standby Lupo Verde and months-old Lupo Pizzeria next door, Lahlou Restaurant Group’s citywide empire includes Lupo Verde Osteria in the Palisades, Lupo Marino on the Wharf, and Tunnicliff’s Tavern on Capitol Hill.
At Dolce Vita, diners can drop $45 to sample four-ounce portions of Spain’s premiere pig. Known as jamón ibérico de bellota, the high-brow ham sliced tableside features white ribbons of fat running in between its deep-red meat.
Lahlou’s corporate executive chef Juan Olivera worked with Dolce Vita executive chef and Del Mar alum Elier Rodriguez to create a one-page menu split into meze; salad and vegetarian; and “from the wood-fired oven” sections.
Morocco’s fiery harissa chile paste makes appearances in raw tuna, potatoes, sardines, and cauliflower dishes. Spain’s beloved baby squid called chipirónes comes with nutty, mahogany-colored rice and egg yolk. Lamb croquettes with tzatziki cream are also a good way to start. Moussaka is the Greek answer to lasagna, comprised of ground lamb, eggplant, béchamel, and cinnamon. An octopus gnocchi lets Southern Italy’s spicy ‘nduja sausage shine.
The common denominator across the Mediterranean-hopping menu is a wood-fired oven sitting prominently in the back, charged with cooking meaty mains and whole fish ($28-$65). A branzino flanked with Morocco’s pungent herb chermoula comes with couscous and seasonal veggies, while a baked, salt-crusted dorade arrives alongside olive oil potatoes and smoked paprika.
The design is an equally transportive experience, offering a visual tour of the Mediterranean via painted landscapes of idyllic coastal towns splashed across its brick walls. Images of Italy’s famous comedian Toto and actress Sophia Loren welcomes guests to a 150-seat dining room dotted with maritime blue chairs and a big communal table to gather friends at the bar. A stylish upstairs dining room covered in fashion magazine collages adds another 80 seats.
“We brought a lot of Mediterranean flair — a lot of great rustic brick, chandeliers and the wood burning oven. All the finishes have been thoroughly thought through,” he says.
Cocktail and wine lists follow the menu’s lead, showing love for spirits, fruits, and grapes from all four countries and beyond.
“This cuisine we have here screams wine and dine all day long,” says Dolce Vita bar manager Daniel Omana.
Toto’s namesake cocktail naturally stars Italian ingredients (Antica vermouth, Amaro Montenegro, mandarin, lemon, and basil), plus Tito’s as a playful riff on his name. Peychaud’s bitters also adds an American touch to the Peppino Sorrentino cocktail, an homage to Italy with Limoncello dell’Isola, lemon, and prosecco. Spanish sangria fans can find white and red options.
A Moroccan Spritzer is the ultimate fusion cocktail, built with Tanqueray, Aperol, Massaya arak, mandarin, prosecco, club soda, and mint syrup it makes on-site. “Mint is king in Morocco,” says Omana.
Tripling down on the 14th Street NW strip came as a no-brainer for Lahlou.
“I call it the Wall Street of D.C. The neighborhood is amazing and there’s nothing like this here. We kill four birds with one stone,” he says.
The bar program invites Lebanon to join in on the fun, too, and showcases the neighboring country’s anise-flavored arak and crowd-pleasing Bekaa Valley reds.
The 150-bottle wine list leaves room for big-name Napa labels like Stag’s Leap and Silver Oak. The sprawling spirits wall behind the 19-seat bar also sneaks in unexpected gems like aged rums, rare agaves and vodkas, and single-malt scotches, notes Omana.