The scene on the corner of Brooks and Beckwith starts like the opening line of a joke: Four ladies walk into Caffé Dolce, casually dressed, ready to order. Owner Peter Lambros smiles, tells them he’s sorry but the restaurant is not yet open on Tuesdays.
It’s not an isolated incident. Excited passers-by see the open patio door to the new restaurant as an invitation. Lambros says he can’t blame them. After six years of hard work, he can’t wait to have the highly anticipated eatery open seven days a week either.
“I want to be a patron of this place as much as I’ve wanted to be a host of this place,” Lambros says.
Caffé Dolce is by now a household name in Missoula. Eleven years in Southgate Mall serving lunch, coffee and gelato wins a restaurant certain notoriety. But the spacious new digs on Brooks are a considerable leap from a spot in the mall, and they’ve generated more than a few whispers.
Lambros describes the new location as an “added step” in how Caffé Dolce serves the community: dinner menu, on-tap local brews, imported wine. With the popularity of the Southgate location, expanding his business seemed like a no-brainer.
Stylistically, the new Caffé Dolce is in a league of its own in Missoula. Concrete slab mingles with mosaic tile and stone, and orange walls contrast with bright blue doors. Lambros calls it a blend of industrial and old-world materials, “fine but informal.” Hundreds of images on his MacBook Pro of Italian cafés, verandas and frescoes, taken during numerous vacations, speak to his inspiration. He won’t say how much the construction cost.
For now, Lambros says he’s taking baby-steps with the business. He’s cycling in employees from the mall location for training, and offering customers breakfast and lunch from Thursday to Sunday. Last weekend, he kept the restaurant open evenings for the first time. When the Caffé Dolce sign goes up out front, it should be symbolic of an official opening, he jokes.
“If there’s vitality here,” says Lambros, “dawn till dark, things should go well.”