Behind on your holiday shopping, but still want to meet some friends for a tasty meal or just coffee and dessert? You can do it all at Dolce Galleria in Paso Robles — an intriguing combination of eclectic home décor store and restaurant.
The “sweetery, eatery, treatery” is situated in the Golden Hills Plaza off Highway 46 East, the same plaza as Lowe’s and Bed Bath & Beyond. It might seem an unlikely spot for such a business, but it’s hard to beat the location’s convenience and ease of parking, and the expansive space inside invites browsing amid an “old world to urban” collection of interior decor for sale.
Dolce Galleria was opened in November 2013 by Shelia and Jeff Johnson, longtime local retailers who previously operated Rendition furniture/interior store and Hailey J clothing stores. Originally, the concept was to have a dessert shop and a design showroom under the same roof — hence the name.
“We thought ‘Let’s just open it and try something totally new,’ ” Sheila Johnson said, acknowledging that the idea is unique. “We were never going to be an actual restaurant. The food just evolved, and it was nothing that we ever expected.”
Foodwise, the Johnsons did stay absolutely true to the dessert aspect of their mission statement.
A cold case just inside the door holds more than 20 flavors of Leo Leo Gelato, from year-round favorites such as chocolate and strawberry to a seasonal pumpkin. You can also fashion your own soft-serve yogurt creation, but you’ll have to choose from several rotating flavors ranging from pistachio to fudge brownie to salted caramel corn, then decide on a mix of 30-plus toppings that include fruit, gummy bears, and chocolate.
The focus on dessert led the Johnsons to serve sweet crepes, especially “because no one else was doing them,” they said. Among those offerings are the Caramel Papple with butter-poached pears and apples, the Monkey Mud with bananas and Nutella, and the Stremon with strawberries and housemade lemon cheesecake filling.
After sweets came savory offerings — and not just crepes such as the Ferrari with Italian prosciutto and aged Italian salami. Even though it’s just two pages long, the Dolce Galleria menu now includes appetizers, rustic flat breads, panini, grilled wraps, pasta, salads and a daily housemade soup such as clam chowder with applewood smoked bacon.
Among those menu items are a Si Caprese salad or a seven-cheese Formaggio flat bread, a Picante panino with pastrami, a roasted turkey Wrapsody with caramelized onions, a Miscuglio pasta dish with sautéed vegetables and wild mushrooms, and an Azzurro appetizer with roasted beets and pancetta. Shelia noted that all the meats are nitrate- and preservative-free, and that the fresh bread comes from La Migliore bakery in Paso Robles.
In addition, executive chef Benjamin Lugo and his staff cook everything fresh to order. The macaroni and cheese isn’t assembled until the order comes in, and the same approach goes for ingredients such as freshly sautéed veggies.
“It is labor-intensive,” said Shelia Johnson said. And given the fact that the kitchen sports just two crepe machines and two panini grills, there can be a bit of a wait during peak meal times.
However, she added, “You can really taste the difference, and people who understand what we’re doing can really appreciate it.”
After all, if you do find yourself with some extra time before your food is served, you have the perfect excuse to browse through Dolce Galleria’s showroom!
2425 Golden Hill Road (at Highway 46 East in the Golden Hills Plaza), Paso Robles | 238-2563
Hours: Daily, Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.- 9 p.m.
The scene: The combination of interior design showroom and restaurant makes you feel like you’re eating at someone’s home.
The cuisine: Savory items include appetizers, crepes, salads, panini and flat breads, while sweets include crepes, gelato and frozen yogurt; the wine and beer lists are predominantly local.
Expect to spend: $8-15.