The pandemic took a toll on many Dallas and Fort Worth restaurants. Too many favorites closed forever. Too many workers were laid off. And now that we’re living in the new normal, too many places feel the negative impact of supply chain issues and labor shortages. Amid the chaos the hospitality industry continues to face, Southern Italian-inspired Dolce Riviera in the Harwood District reopens this week after nearly 800 days closed.
It sounds like an unlikely story. The Harwood Hospitality Group decided to close down all of its restaurants during the mandated restaurant closures in 2020 and use the time to make changes. For Dolce Riviera, that meant a redesigned dining room, the addition of a wine tasting and cocktail room called the Parlor, and a new menu under executive chef Paul Latkowski.
“It is a reopening but it has the energy and the enthusiasm with a brand new opening,” Warren Richards, vice president of hospitality at Harwood Hospitality, tells Eater Dallas. He credits the energy to chef Latkowski, who worked with the group’s corporate executive chef Taylor Kearney to imagine a new menu focused on upscale coastal Italian fare.
“We’ve doubled down on our pasta program,” Richards says. “We’re going to have nine different types of pasta made fresh daily. There is definitely a seafood-centric emphasis to the menu, but still a lot of those familiar classics that people enjoy.”
A part of why Dolce Riviera and its corporate parents were able to maintain the restaurant under such an extended closure is because it owns, rather than rents, all of the real estate in which it operates. That allowed them to choose the perfect moment to open to the public once again. “As the temperature rises, everyone is heading into summer vacation mode, and that’s what Dolce Riviera is,” Richards says. “It’s such a beautiful outdoor space, and it did make sense in this late spring early summer period for people to come here and feel like they’re on vacation.”
That time allowed Harwood to rework the patio and install lemon trees that have had the time to grow into the pergola above. “Personally, for myself, seeing restaurants around the country reopened with these beautiful outdoor spaces — I think that is something that all of our guests have been missing,” Richards says.
He also revealed that the new patio eating area features a roof that can be opened up when the weather permits to give patrons a view of the evening sky.
A new addition to the space is a warm, intimate room called the Parlor. Richards explains that the inspiration for the room was the tradition in Southern Italy of going for a cocktail or an aperitivo in the time between work ending and before dinner to open the stomach. But the room only holds 15 to 20 patrons.
“The Parlor allows our guests an opportunity to go to this warm and cozy, intimate hideaway where you can get that pre-dinner cocktail but then also double back after dinner, when the sun goes down,” Richards says.
The Parlor will serve traditional Italian cocktails, selections from the new cocktail program, and a carefully curated wine selection that hits the higher end and Champagnes. Some are rare wines with a very hefty price tag, going up to the hundreds of dollars per glass. It is also available for private parties.
Dolce Riviera is open now at 2950 N. Harwood Street. Reservations are available from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and from 5 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.