My credibility for this review: My in-laws are Italian-American, I've traveled extensively in Italy (particularly Piemonte), and I'm a serious home cook making a lot of regional Italian food. I'm now living in New Zealand, and while I love this country with all my heart, it suffers a bit from not having enjoyed a lot of Italian immigration (unlike its neighbor across the Tasman). Thank goodness, then, that we found this place quite by accident on a recent trip to Te Anau. The other place that was recommended was full, and as we were walking down the street, the owner of La Dolce Vita stepped out onto the sidewalk and greet us with a hearty "buona sera!" We figured we'd give it a go, and it was just like being in a real Italian trattoria or osteria. The owner and his son were bustling around waiting on tables and bantering with customers, and they were patient with my rusty Italian. More to the point, the food was spot-on. I had what they called fettucine, but was closer to papardelle, with a venison ragu, and it was exactly as it would be in Northwest Italy. My son had a bit of an Italian-NZ fusion dish -- penne with a smoked chicken cream sauce -- and it was excellent. The antipasto platter had well-sourced meats and cheeses. As it should be in a real Italian place (always order vino rosso della casa!), the house wine was excellent, although there were lots of good choices on the wine list as well. Prices were very reasonable given the quality of the dinner. The only criticism I could possibly offer is that the strip mall location isn't the most charming, but once you're inside you won't notice.
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