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Il Dolce
Costa Mesa CA

Il Dolce in Costa Mesa, CA

Il Dolce. A lot of locals don't know it's there, although they drive past it all the time. And although it's been VPN certified, we didn't see a certificate or a little harlequin sticker. As far as we're concerned, the only thing wrong with this charming pizzeria-restaurant is that husband- and- wife owners Roberto Bigne and Fernanda Masuero might not be tooting their own horn loudly enough!


We had heard about Il Dolce from Peter Reinhart when we headed out to Orange County last year, but didn't get to try it. This time we were determined to visit and we enjoyed it so much we went there twice.

Il Dolce isn't a big place - it's intimate without feeling cramped. The wood-fired oven is nestled in a corner, giving the pizzaiolo (either Roberto or one of his capable cooks) plenty of room to work without being on stage. The music is soft and mostly Italian. Nice place.

We had the same waiter, Vini, both times. He was energetic and attentive without being annoying - and (extra points) he remembered us when we came back. So we were happy with the service.

The pizza

You probably know by now that, in balancing the three main pizza elements (dough, sauce and cheese), the dough counts most with us. Well, both times we visited Il Dolce, the dough was extraordinary. Not just delicious. Extraordinary. We don't usually rate such things, but Il Dolce's crust was in the top five crusts we've had anywhere. Thin, but strong enough to hold toppings without soaking or flopping.  A big puffy nicely charred cornicione. And we could go on and on about how the flavor of the neapolitan-style dough (so often just a base for toppings) stood up as a full partner to the rest of the ingredients.

On top of that, bright, delicious tomato sauce and a house-made fior di latte that was just the right taste and texture. The basil was put on pre-bake, with just enough oil to keep it green and enough bake to blend the flavors.

Il Dolce's pizza margherita

And that was just the Margherita.

Although the sauce was delicious, we decided to go sauceless with the Verdure, which features roasted mixed vegetables, mozzarella, goat cheese (we requested gorgonzola instead and got it), and 'fresh herbs'. The menu claimed that the Verdure had pesto sauce, but we didn't see or taste it - unless it was an untraditional pesto, made with something other than basil. With or without, it was still a fantastic pizza. And the bright mix of colors allowed us to, as they say, eat with our eyes before eating with our mouths.

Il Dolce Pizza Verdura

We were so impressed with the flavor and texture of the pizzas, and especially the dough, Cary asked Roberto Bigne how he does it - gets a dough so thin, so delicious, yet strong enough to hold the toppings.

"It's the stretch," Roberto said with a big smile, spreading his hands in the air. We suspect it's a bit more than that - but whatever it is, it's excellent pizza, and one more place we can recommend to our fellow East Coast pizza snobs when they visit Orange County, California.

Il Dolce pizzas halfway thrrough

Il Dolce, 1902 Harbor Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92627, (949) 200-9107



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