The restaurant is small, very small, yet it stills feel like a normal restaurant. Just 5 two's and 3 four's, intimate but amazingly not over-crowded. The food is classic Italian, all those simple dishes you think of when considering an Italian meal, and mostly from the south of Italy where eating is a passion.
What a better way to start but with Prosciutto e Papaya, thin slices of parma ham stretched over cool, fresh fruit. They would have preferred to use rock melon but found the quality too inconsistent. A local touch but this is still a perfect example of the simplicity of Italian cuisine yet what could be a more refreshing starter?
Other Antipasti include the traditional Insalata Caprese [layered slices of mozzarella cheese, fresh tomato and pesto], Salmon and Avocado [tossed with aragula and a citrus dressing] and a selection of Bruschetta; Pomodoro just tomato and basil, Calabrese with bell peppers, black olives and capers and the Mista which is a slice of both with an olive pate on the side.
The test of any true Italian restaurant must be the quality of their pasta. As the Italian cuisine is a very regional one so too does the pasta vary from area to area. At Dolce Arancia the food is from the south of Italy.
As I am always looking for dishes that are different to the norm I was fascinated by Spaghetti Dolce Arancia [spaghetti with sweet orange] so I had to try. What a surprising dish, the spaghetti was very fine, more like a spaghettini, a type that I have always preferred. It has no more than a hint of orange with a few segments scattered around the plate. Not mentioned on the menu but this spaghetti was also studded with shrimps or baby prawns.
In fact all of the Dolce Arancia featured dishes are, as the name suggests, with a sweet fragrant orange flavour. The salad combines shrimps with orange segments over aragula with a honey dressing. That also includes their newest main Tagliata da Manzo [sliced beef] in a delicate orange sauce and their dessert of chocolate and orange cake.
Other spaghetti offerings include ones with shrimps and zucchini in a white wine sauce, fresh basil pesto Genovese style, with tuna, olives and capers, and the classic Spaghetti alle Vongele, with clams.
There is also a Lasagna, Penne alla Siciliana [with eggplant, mozzarella and a thick tomato sauce], Rigatoni alla Bolognese and an unusual Orecchiette which is Italian for 'little ears' and that is what they look like, which makes them perfect for filling with the sauce. Here that sauce comprises small sprigs of broccoli in anchovy.
Soups can be hearty potato or pumpkin cream soups or a touch of seafood with shrimps and chickpeas [zuppa gamberi e ceci] or Zuppa di Vongele with clams.
Mains [or Secondi as they say in Italian where they always expect you to have three courses at any meal] are all classic dishes, mainly from the south. Parmigiana di Melanzane is purely vegetarian unlike the meat versions often on the menu at Italian restaurants outside of Italy. It consists of layers of fried eggplant, in between is a rich tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Scallopine di Vitello is three veal medallions that have been pan fried in white wine. Polpette di Carne al Sugo is a Sicilian favourite. I love the Polpettini, smaller balls of meat that have been stuffed with a nut of mozzarella, these are larger meat balls. Involtini is thin slabs of veal rolled around mozzarella, again in that rich tomato sauce. More standard items are the Grilled Chicken Breast, Grilled Salmon and the Fillet of Beef with mushrooms.
Side dishes of vegetables can be ordered to share at the table. Mixed grilled vegetables, rosemary potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, broccoli or crisp potato chips.
In this day of extravagant wine prices in Bali it is refreshing to find a place that is not so hungry, the prices here are very reasonable. Most wines are available by the glass and this is the 1st restaurant that I have ever been to that brings the bottle to the table even though you have only ordered a glass, proffers a small taste first and then the waitress free pours the wine. For example $8 for a glass of excellent Chianti is definitely not expensive.
To finish with dessert is almost an essential part of any visit to an Italian restaurant. Their standards are found on the menus at many non-Italian restaurants. Panna Cotta is one such dish, but at Dolce Arancia you are presented with three small variations in the way it can be made. Tiramisu is one of those much abused dishes served up elsewhere in a myriad of forms. Here it is the original! Crostatine alla Frutta are small fruit cakes in special custard, pastry disks topped with fresh fruit. If you order their Tris Selezione Della Casa then you get a small sample serving of each of the above desserts.
All in all Dolce Arancia is an amazing little restaurant that does its best to produce classic Italian food, neither a tom yum nor a hamburger in sight!