Passenger Pick of the Month
la Dolce Vita Restaurant
Celebrating their four year anniversary, la Dolce Vita has established itself as one of Cayman’s best restaurants. As this month’s Passenger Pick of the Month, we wanted to learn more about the story behind la Dolce Vita, so recently we caught up with owner and head chef Ercole Musso.
PP: So, “la Dolce Vita”, what does that translate to in English?
EM: It’s an Italian expression, and in English it means, “The Sweet Life.”
PP: Great name! This really is a “sweet” restaurant experience. But most Cayman tourists and residents don’t typically speak Italian, so why did you choose a name in the Italian language?
EM: It just fits us so well. There are several good Italian restaurants on Grand Cayman, but one of the things that sets la Dolce Vita apart is our focus on really authentic Italian food. The food you’ll experience here is just like what you’d experience at the best restaurants in northern Italy.
PP: We get that. What we’ve experienced here is just outstanding! What’s your signature style of cuisine and how has it evolved over the years?
EM: At la Dolce Vita the emphasis is very much on fresh ingredients prepared daily. Our pasta is only prepared on the day of service, it is never prepared and frozen beforehand. Our bread is made fresh daily and the menu specials change daily. I try and cater to everyone’s tastes, so we offer new appetizers, pasta dishes, fish and meat dishes and salads every day alongside the regular menu.
PP: Your pizza is so flavorful, like what we experienced when we visited Italy years ago. Is it true that you import the flour special from Italy?
EM: It is true. Our pizza is made the Italian way, which is so different from what many have come to associate with the word pizza. Our big brick pizza oven in the indoor dining area is there so diners can watch the artistry behind the creation of this wonderful dish that is so often taken for granted. One of my favorites is the Pizza Della Casa, or house pizza, which features tomato, mozzarella, basil, Parma ham and brie cheese.
PP: Your view of the ocean and the harbor from up here is just breath taking!
EM: I just love it! In our four years on Grand Cayman, we’ve been in two locations. Our first location didn’t have a great view like this. But just over a year ago we were fortunate to acquire this location. The sunsets here are inspirational.
PP: So where did you grow up?
EM: I grew up in Barolo, a village of only 600 people in northern Italy. It’s in the Piedmont region, famous for its world class wine and food.
PP: The picture looks like it’s an absolutely gorgeous place. So that must explain all the Barolo wines we noticed you stock here.
EM: Yes, they’re really excellent wines. We’re so proud to serve Barolo at la Dolce Vita.
PP: What made you choose cooking as a career, and how has your career progressed?
EM: When I was young we had no supermarkets nearby so all our food was grown or reared locally, so we ate fresh food every day. My grandfather had a wonderful garden in which he grew everything – from strawberries to carrots to salad. We would find a rabbit or a chicken, pick our vegetables and that would be what my grandmother Lina would use to cook for our family for the day. I watched her cook for us and it became my passion. I then learned the art of producing fine wines from my mother’s father, Ricu, and knowledge of gathering precious white truffles from my father’s father, Lino. Eventually I opened a restaurant in Barolo in my grandfather’s cantina (storage rooms) which was very successful. From then on I moved to another restaurant before working alongside Paolo Abbona who runs Marchesi di Barolo, travelling around the world showcasing Italian wines and cuisine with him. After visiting Grand Cayman in 2005 I fell in love with the island and told my wife (who worked with me in my restaurant) to pack up and come to Cayman. In 2008 I finally opened “The Post Restaurant" which has now evolved into today’s la Dolce Vita.
PP: Your wife Loredana is such a delight with the customers. How did you two meet?
EM: We met in Alba, Italy, another small town near Barolo, when I asked her to dance. It didn’t take me long to realize that she’s the love of my life. I was hopelessly in love with her, and fortunately for me, when I asked, she said yes! She has such a warm, sincere, genuine personality, all our customers just love her.
PP: What do you like to do when you have an off day? Do you cook?
EM: I don’t cook when I’m off, but thankfully Loredana is an excellent cook. I enjoy my breaks, it keeps my passion for cooking high. When I’m off I like to spend time with my beautiful wife and daughters Virginia and Caterina. I also am an avid cyclist. Before work many mornings I ride 25 miles with one of my staff members. On an off day, I’ll kick it up to a 50 mile ride.
PP: A key feature of the experience here is how knowledgeable your staff is. They have such a thorough understanding of Italian food.
EM: Everyone who works here is a professional. They all understand how food and wine go together, and how the food is created.
PP: We can’t conclude our time at “The Sweet Life” without mentioning your fabulous desserts. How about the Panna Cotta?
EM: Of all our great desserts, I guess that would have to be our signature. It’s softly set creamy Italian pudding served with mixed berries. I have guests who will try Panna Cotta at other restaurants around the world, only to report back that none compare to ours. It’s really good.
PP: We really like how you don’t rush your guests.
EM: It is important to relax and take your time when enjoying a proper Italian meal, and although the lunch menu has been specially created to feature menu items that can be prepared and served quickly, I don’t believe a good Italian dinner can be rushed. You come, see the view, sit and talk with friends, and enjoy good food. la Dolce Vita is not a place you come to eat, it is a place you come to dine.Friends, this is an experience you don’t want to miss.
la Dolce Vita Restaurant
147 North Church St.