News 4 days ago

Dolce: Pizza Gourmet and Eastern European Restaurant

The Frederick News-Post — Karen Gardner The Frederick News-Post, Md.

Feb. 16--Good things come in small packages, a phrase that is particularly apt when it comes to Dolce Pizza Gourmet and Eastern European Restaurant in Hagerstown.

Situated on the east side of Hagerstown, just off Dual Highway on Frederick Road is a concrete block white building next to CertainTeed, in an industrial part of the city. Not the place you'd expect to find top quality Italian and Eastern European food.

But that's exactly what you get at this tiny restaurant, in a building not much larger than a typical Cape Cod house.

A dozen and a half tables were artfully placed around the restaurant, making maximum use of the space, while not making diners feel crowded. And the restaurant was crowded on a recent afternoon with people enjoying the restaurant's selection of sandwiches, cold and hot subs, calzones, Stromboli, pizza and dinners. It's casual, although the food is definitely not casually made.

A friend who has impeccable taste recommended Dolce, saying that the food is topnotch, including the pizza and subs, which she often picks up for her family on busy Friday nights.

My husband and I decided to try the dinners, saving the pizza for another night. I love anything with pasta, so I went with the Tortellini served with diced tomatoes ($11.99). This was served with a salad and French dinner rolls, which were small but tasty.

The salad came with crispy lettuce, lots of carrot slices, red cabbage, onions, pepperoncini, grated cheese and a very good house-made vinaigrette served on the side. I'm usually pretty sparing with salad dressing, but I used the entire amount served. I didn't want to waste any of it.

The salad prepared me for the tortellini, which was made with soft, yet chewy noodles, creamy ricotta cheese, and a tangy, tasty tomato sauce that I would put up against any from a fine Italian restaurant. The sauce was thick and chunky with peppers, tomatoes, onions and enough spice to give the sauce a bite, without overpowering it. I finished my entire plate, a rarity for me.

My husband ordered Moldavian Chicken ($14.99). The chef/owner Julia Manea is a native of Romania. She worked in restaurants in France before coming to the U.S. She worked in a restaurant in Smithsburg before setting out on her own and opening Dolce on Frederick Street in May of 2007. She's been there ever since, and the restaurant has gained a large local following.

Manea has a way of preparing interesting international food that will satisfy American tastes, which can be a tough task.

My husband, who is always willing to try new foods, thought the Moldavian Chicken was phenomenal. It's made with chicken breast and leg meat, potatoes, diced tomatoes, onion, salt, pepper and fresh parsley. The chicken was fork tender, and the flavors melted together into a smooth, spicy, filling dish.

Other dishes looked equally appealing. Julia Stuffed Cabbage, Moussake, Rice Chicken and Pan Fried Pork with Polenta are the other European dinners. Italian dinners include Chicken Cacciatore, Chicken Marsala, Gnocchi with Meat Sauce, Eggplant Ravioli and more traditional Italian meals. There are specials every day, which I'm sure are equally as good as the menu items.

Dessert, seafood, soups, salads, a child's menu and side dishes round out the menu. Although we plan to pick up a pizza there soon, we may have a hard time turning down another of Manea's dinners.

The Dish reports on unannounced dining experiences in and near Frederick. Send us your tips at


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