In front of me sat an irresistible display of cakes and pastries, featuring classics like red velvet cake as well as unconventional flavors like rum-toasted almond cake. Standing in Dolce Gastropub and Bakery, I was simply enamored with their desserts.
Dolce, located across from Target in Montclair, has been open for 12 years. Originally an eatery, it was converted to a gastropub to fit more modern trends.
The restaurant is divided into a bakery and a sitting area. The former is well-lit by large windows and features a wonderful display of baked goods, while dim Edison light bulbs give the latter a romantic ambiance.
Alice Lee opened Dolce at the age of 28. As a Chinese American, she emphasized the importance of sharing food in Chinese culture and also celebrates the cultural melting pot of foods and drinks from different geographical locations.
When talking about Dolce’s values, Lee stressed the importance of collaboration and teamwork. Lee and her employers brainstorm together to add additions to the menu and improve Dolce as a whole.
“When you put all these minds together, you create something amazing,” Lee said.
Dolce’s menu was developed in collaboration with the head chef, who has worked at the restaurant since its opening. Both wanted to ensure that their products were created from quality ingredients — as a result, the team sources ingredients locally and makes all of the menu items from scratch.
Although Lee said having classics on the menu is important, she and the Dolce team also “take the norm and twist it to make it more fun and exciting.” For example, Dolce serves a burger with classic ingredients such as tomato and onion, but they also serve a creative version featuring roasted tomato, onion marmalade and bacon jam.
While the restaurant has a strong reputation in the Claremont community, Lee said not many 5C students go there, likely because students might find it inconvenient to go that far when the Village is within walking distance. In an effort to overcome the distance, Dolce caters cakes to many faculty and graduation events at the 5Cs.
Cakes at Dolce can be bought by the slice or whole. Most have three layers and all are beautifully decorated to match their flavor profile. For example, the exterior of the raspberry lemon cake is a watercolor-like mixture of pink, red and yellow. Dainty carrots lay spaced out evenly on the carrot cake, toasted almonds cover the rum-toasted almond cake, while a purple gradient sits on top of the red velvet cake.
I sampled four cakes: the strawberry fresca, chocolate amore, carrot and tiramisu. The strawberry fresca, Dolce’s most popular cake, is a vanilla chiffon cake with fresh strawberries and custard between each layer, covered by a whipped chocolate chantilly cream.
Both the cake and cream were light and airy. The tartness of the strawberry cut through the sweet custard, and its freshness highlighted the height of strawberry season.
Lee’s favorite cake is the chocolate amore, a Viennese cake with chocolate mousse, buttercream and ganache. Because the dessert contains only dark chocolate, it wasn’t overly sweet. Instead, it had powerful notes of chocolate from all the components. The cake was moist without being too dense, and the mousse, buttercream and ganache made it even more indulgent.
Carrot cake is a classic. The sponge texture was more dense than the previous two due to the nuts, carrots and spices, but the flavor was definitely full-bodied. The sweetened cream cheese, an essential to any carrot cake, gave it an extra oomph.
My favorite was the tiramisu, and Dolce’s version was a fun play on the classic dessert. Instead of ladyfingers, their version had a square piece of cappuccino chiffon cake in the center of a dome shaped mascarpone rum mousse. The coffee flavor in the mousse and cake was prominent, with hints of rum here and there. The mousse was melt-in-your-mouth creamy, sweet and smooth. The cake in the center was dense and airy at the same time.
I would have tried more cakes if I could. The cheesecakes, which have a sugar cookie crust, would most certainly satisfy my sweet tooth. The sweetened-milk-soaked cakes, including the toasted coconut and the horchata tres leches, looked very aesthetically appealing.
So far, Dolce has stuck to classic favorites such as chocolate and vanilla bases, but Lee said they are “trying to get a little more daring and creative with their flavor profiles.” Currently, they are experimenting with a pistachio mousse with cardamom shortbread and crackling crusts.
Dolce Gastropub and Bakery did not disappoint my taste buds. It’s a great place for meals and satisfying your sweet tooth, a truly unique combination.
Stephanie Du SC ’21 is TSL’s food columnist. She is a biology major and her hobbies include cooking, baking, traveling and eating all kinds of foods.