By Kathy Kerby
Walter (pronounced Valter) Bergamo, who is from Bergamaochi in the Italian Alps, and his wife, Marti Printy, opened Gelato Dolce Vita 10 years ago on the southeastern corner of Brown and Higley roads. Six years later, they introduced the Italian Grocer and small restaurant because, according to Marti, “they got tired of the food in Arizona and wanted something good to eat.”
When customers walk into Dolce Vita, they must make an immediate choice. Do they go right into the grocery store or to the left and indulge in luscious gelato? The answer is to do both. The grocery offers many hard-to-find-items at reasonable prices. There isn’t another place in the East Valley where you can find quality cured meats and cheeses from Europe. It’s all there—meats like bresaola and speck to cheeses like pecorino and asiago. Walter is happy to let customers sample and, while he’s at it, he offers an Italian vocabulary lesson as they make their selections.
The Dolce Vita grocery store and restaurant side boasts shelves and shelves of pasta, sauces, cookies, genuine Gardena chocolates, coffees, bread sticks, marmalades and olives. Two glass cases hold the meats and cheeses and several tables with red-and-white checkered tablecloths welcome guests. A pink Vespa with the store’s website printed on the front adds a whimsical touch and it brought back memories for me and my sister, Karen, of dodging Vespas in Venice.
When we stopped perusing and sat down to eat, we ordered the Bruschetta Classica ($7.50). The rustic, toasted bread had been rubbed with garlic and piled high with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and a nice drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. This lovely creation was placed on top of an aged wooden cutting board which added to the authenticity. We enjoyed each crunchy, creamy spicy bite. The insalatina (salad) was a mix of organic salad greens and large slices of tomatoes served with an oil and vinegar dressing in a bowl big enough for two. A simple salad is often the best and this one was perfect.
Next, we tasted the contadino panino and the Dolce Vita panino ($7). These may be called paninis, but they aren’t like the sorts that are served in most restaurants.
Because we don’t speak Italian, it was nice to have a large sign with lists and pictures of the various meats (salumi) and cheeses (formaggi).
Dolce Vita Italian Grocer and Gelato Dolce Vita
5251 E. Brown Rd., Suites 103 and 104
Photo Caption1: The bruschetta was topped with large chunks of fresh mozzarella.
Photo caption2: Two glass cases feature the luscious gelato made fresh by owner Walter Bergamo.