Every Friday through the end of 2018, the Rant will feature a dish that stands out among Lee County’s restaurant scene. We’ll usually focus on lunch, but there aren’t any rules – we just want to let you know (if you don’t already) about the many dining options we have that are owned and operated by people right here in Lee County. This week, try the stuffed peppers from La Dolce Vita.

Another week, another pizzeria whose pizza we aren’t focusing on. It’s not that the pizza isn’t good at La Dolce Vita (or Hawkins Grill & Pizzeria, which we featured last week), it’s just that in both cases, there’s something on the menu by which the pizza is outshined. At La Dolce Vita – whose recent move to and renovation of one of downtown Sanford’s older buildings is one of the more exciting recent culinary developments in our area – that item is the stuffed peppers.

THE DISH: At $10, LDV’s stuffed peppers probably fall on the more expensive end of the local lunch spectrum, but don’t let that deter you from trying them every now and then if you haven’t already. A pair of hollowed out green bell peppers are filled with Italian sausage, mushrooms, cheese, and more, topped with marinara sauce and popped into the oven until everything comes together in a gooey, savory, slightly spicy meal where you get every flavor in every bite. It comes with a thick piece of focaccia bread that’s perfect for sopping up the little bits of cheese and meat and sauce that fall out when you cut into the peppers. A side note: these can tend to come out of the oven blazing – BLAZING – hot, which really is pretty unfair, because you just read this and thought “hey, that sounds great,” and now you want those peppers right away. Have some patience. It’s more than smart to give them a minute so you can actually taste them instead of injuring your mouth and ruining your ability to detect flavor for the rest of time.

WHAT ELSE TO TRY: Like Hawkins Grill, it’s hard to talk about LDV without talking about pizza. They feature a range of full-sized specialty pizzas (between $13 and $17), all of which feature a relatively thin crust which does just enough to support the ingredients (ranging from classics like the cheese Margherita and the sausage-and-pepperoni-heavy Kansanara to less traditional varieties like the Thai Chicken or the Pesto Primo) without overwhelming them. LDV’s new layout – with a full bar featuring several craft beers – makes a Friday night dinner of pizza and beer seem like a particularly fun thing to do. And at lunchtime, the  “slice ‘n soda” special, which gets you exactly what it sounds like for just $5.50, is an awesome way to get full for cheap. There’s also a list of focaccia and pita sandwiches ($6$8) that go from steak and mushrooms to veggie heavy options like the Roberto or the Tomato Fresco. The appetizer menu also features a $5 Crostini – essentially a miniature pizza which swaps the tomato sauce for salty, savory ingredients like feta cheese and capers – that you don’t want to let get by you.

La Dolce Vita is located at 226 Carthage St. in downtown Sanford and can be reached at (919) 777-5277. They are open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Visit their website or their Facebook, or click here to view their full menu.

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