From Electric City…

Vino Dolce
824 Sans Souci Highway,
Hanover Township
570.824.4055

If a quiet night in a small, intimate atmosphere dining on fresh pasta that was hand cut just moments before your arrival sounds like the perfect reprieve from the evening traffic at most of the larger, shopping area restaurants, Vino Dolce is the answer.

With table seating for 14 and bar seating for 12, you’ll feel like you’re part of an old-fashioned, large Italian family dinner. Considering that the restaurant’s entrees consist of family recipes prepared daily by the owners, dining here does, in fact, make you a member of the family.

In addition to the fresh pasta, foccacia bread is baked daily on the premises and traditional Italian entrees, including veal, chicken and seafood dishes, are made to order.

Open Monday through Saturday, 5 to 9:30 p.m., Vino Dolce is for the diner searching for the simple, homey ambiance that can only be found at small, intimate, family-owned establishments.

From The Times Leader…

Vino Dolce a sweet dining experience

By T. MUNCH
Times Leader Food Critic

It would be so easy to drive right past this unassuming former insurance agency painted purple on the Sans Souci Parkway.

Don�t.

Vino Dolce, which opened in December, is a pocket-sized pasta palace worthy of your patronage. The menu doesn’t dazzle with selection from untraveled northern Italian nooks. The scampis, parmigianos and pastas are standard fare at plenty of area restaurants, but Vino Dolce’s tender pasta  “homemade and hand cut daily” isn’t.

Vino Dolce (“sweet wine” in Italian) stands out for the freshness of its ingredients and dishes.

It begins with the bread basket, filled with wedges of homemade focaccia (Italian flat bread flavored with olive oil and herbs.) These tender, inch-thick slabs of springy, flavorful bread are a delight dabbed in olive oil. But go easy, you won’t want to load up.

From the Insalata menu, I ordered a salad of roasted red peppers. The 12-inch bowl was loaded with slightly chilled peppers, plump capers, black olives and loads of fresh garlic all dressed in olive oil. The smoky peppers tasted so sweet, they bordered on the flavor of tomatoes.

The sole disappointment of the entire meal was the run-of-the-mill black olives in the salad. With all the gourmet olives available, why settle for something out of a can?

Our gracious waiter, a friendly, easygoing kid, served up the bruschetta next. He brought extra plates with each appetizer, knowing intuitively that my wife and I would share with our two young sons.

Forget what you think you know about bruschetta. Vino Dolce’s masterpiece in no way resembles skimpy French bread over baked to the consistency of a crouton, all slathered in a watery tomato slurry. Instead, take that same wonderful focaccia, rub it with olive oil and garlic and top with fresh tomatoes, basil and melted mild provolone. The sweet-yet-tart tomatoes are the star of this show.

My 5-year-old clam man was pleased to see Clams “Vino Dolce” on the menu. This consists of 13 (he counted them thrice) plump, steamed Rhode Island clams, seasoned with Italian spices and vino.

He offered this advice to his less experienced, 3-year-old prospective clam-eating sibling: �The bigger they are, the harder they are to get out of the shell.  Bonus tip: The green stuff (spices dusting the lip of the bowl) doesn’t taste like anything.

For dinner, I couldn’t choose between portabella mushroom and cheese ravioli or homemade lasagna. Our waiter broke the tie. “It’s wet and damp out-side,” he said. “The lasagna will fill you up.”

The hearty lasagna was a good choice; not over laden with cheese, allowing me to taste the freshness of the pasta. About 25 square inches of yum.

My wife asked about Vino Dolce’s specialties, learned the crab-stuffed ravioli is quite popular, then chose a risotto dish (Italian arboria short-grain rice that’s creamy when cooked – spicy Italian sausage and asiago, a hard grating cheese) from the daily special menu.

Our 3-year-old spluttered and reached for the water glass after sampling Mom’s sausage. That burns the heck out of me. It has an interesting, smoky bite but is quite manageable.

There is no children’s menu, but kids often split entrees at Vino Dolce, according to our waiter. Ours divided meat ravioli and ate it all.

A word on children. Vino Dolce is a really, really intimate place. We’re talking 10-small-table-tiny in the no-smoking section, maybe fewer by the bar. Our pint-sized diners are far from angels at home, but they can keep their seats and voices low for 90 minutes out to eat. One rowdy kid (or adult, for that matter) could ruin everybody’s meal.

Again, don’t be fooled by Vino Dolce’s modest exterior. Once through the front door, the transition is remarkable. A beautiful cherry bar accented by cherry woodwork throughout. Classy furnishings. Dim lighting. The perfect place to pop the question  if you can be heard above the “Moonstruck” soundtrack.

My older boy pledged to hold his ears all through dinner  until he discovered he couldn’t cover his ears and wield a fork simultaneously.

For dessert, the Italian Love Cake, is hands down the best cake I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. Generous layers of vanilla and chocolate cake separated by a sweet Ricotta cheese filling, covered in a light chocolate mousse frosting.

To die for, and I nearly did. I’m still nursing prong wounds to my right hand. Next time, the boys get their own Love Cake.