La Dolce Vita on Preston is a fan favourite among Ottawa locals, with a niche approach to their menu: traditional Italian foods that are celiac friendly. The Caldeira family has been running the operation for the past four years and they take pride in being one of the only restaurants in Ottawa that offer dine-in celiac options. They boast a celiac menu that’s the same size as their regular menu, and their niche offerings have allowed them to keep busier than most during the pandemic.
The adjustment from a dine-in restaurant to a takeout-dominant operation wasn’t easy. The restaurant was already on Skip the Dishes but had to expand to Uber Eats to deal with the increase in demand. They had to rework their staffing strategy, relying more on the kitchen to fulfill takeout orders. Their patio seating opened back up on June 12th, but they opted to keep their indoor seating closed for the foreseeable future. This has left them with a quarter of the in-house seating they once had, which has taken a toll on sales. The restaurant is planning to figure out an indoor seating situation for the fall, but the nature of their cozy New-York style venue will make this adjustment difficult, meaning they may have to revert back to takeout.
“In our first 2 years of owning the restaurant we had our own in-house delivery service, but it was a disaster.” Explains Alexandra Caldeira, the owner’s daughter. “We were averaging one order per hour due to driver capacity constraints, and people were waiting 2 hours on food. This forces us to use third-party delivery apps that charge a hefty commission fee.”
Retaining employees was another challenge for La Dolce Vita. The discomfort of masks in combination with a typically hot kitchen environment made for an unpleasant workplace, and Alexandra had concerns for all restaurant industry workers. Many of their old staff members decided that it simply wasn’t worth it to return, forcing them to source new employees without a guarantee that they would qualify for any wage subsidies.
“We had to make decisions in the dark,” Alexandra explains. “The government should have made subsidy applications an easier process, maybe a simple quiz or something. The process was so complex, and we couldn’t have done it without an accountant. I think there will be a lot of recalls due to misunderstanding.”
Despite the government’s misstep in their subsidy distribution methods, they hit the nail on the head when it came to liquor laws. La Dolce Vita has a unique takeout wine service made possible by new takeout liquor regulations put in place by the Canadian government. They import a large variety of special wines from Italy that consumers can’t get at the LCBO. The wines are all of very high-quality, and La Dolce Vita sells them through 3rd party delivery apps at a discounted rate. Exclusive wine and celiac-friendly Italian food, what more could the city of Ottawa ask for?
For more information on La Dolce Vita or to order, please visit https://ladolcevitapreston.com/.