Note: I've heard this restaurant has closed and a new Thai restaurant has opened in its place.
Summary: The restaurant tries hard but ultimately delivers less than stellar Italian food at high prices.
Dolci Amore is the kind of restaurant that can only exist in the suburbs. Plant it in Berkeley or Oakland and it would fold in a matter of weeks. Even in Castro Valley, it's hard to see how it stays open - when we visited at 7:30 pm on a Tuesday night (August 2005), the place was completely empty - and nobody walked in during our hour-long dinner there. But it's been around for a few years so it must be doing something right - not sure what that is, though.
Now, don't get me wrong. Dolci Amore is not bad. The food we had there was perfectly edible, Mike actually liked his salmon, and while the little restaurant tries too hard to be something it's not ("the most romantic restaurant in the east bay" or something like that), I can hardly fault the chef-owner for aiming high. I can fault him, however, for delivering less-than-stellar food at very high prices, and for that reason I would not go there again.
Dolci Amore is a small store-front restaurant that has tried to overcome the deficiencies of its dining room (like the exposed air ducts) by painting everything in sight in purple and black tones and thus trying to give it a stylish look. But it fails horribly at that - the colors would suggest an industrial or metro-chick look, but it just doesn't work when the chairs are the spindle-back type and there are flowers at the table. The atmosphere is not unpleasant, mind you, but neither is it romantic or interesting.
The menu includes appetizers ($4.50 to $11), pastas ($16 to $21) and main dishes ($17 to $20). There is a great emphasis on seafood and chicken, and save for the two vegetarian pastas, all of the pasta dishes came with seafood or chicken. None of the appetizers appealed to us so we went directly to the main entrees. I decided on the Vitello Marsala, AKA veal Marsala ($19) while Mike went for the salmon on special that night. The veal Marsala was OK, the meat was tender and mostly lean, but the sauce wasn't particularly remarkable. It wasn't very sweet but also lack the depth and balance that such a sauce could have. Indeed, I couldn't tell it was a Marsala sauce at all. Mike's salmon was better, it was well cooked and the sauce was tasty, though he can't remember what type of sauce it was. Both dishes came identically garnished with a side of gnocchi and steamed vegetables. The gnocchi had a nice consistency - neither too heavy or light - but they were completely insipid and were unable to soak up the flavors of the sauces. If this is an example of what the kitchen does with pasta, it's no wonder the place was so empty that night. The vegetables (carrots, broccoli & potatoes) were plain and unremarkable. Neither dish was particularly appealing visually - the meat was just plopped in a side of the plate and the sides on the other - given the prices a little bit more care should be given to the presentation.
As one can expect for the suburbs, the wine list was very short and unremarkable, we had soft drinks instead. We also skipped dessert as nothing was appealing.
I can't imagine going back to Dolci Amore - we'd probably have a better meal for less at the Olive Garden.
On a last note, the restaurant offers a discount through the Entertainment Book.
3837 Castro Valley Blvd.