Having recently moved to Oxnard, California (a beautiful beach town with a rather unattractive name) Nick & I didn’t get a chance to start exploring right away. First came the busy move and unpacking on Halloween, followed by (only a few days later) our beautiful trip to Italy and Switzerland during the second half of November. Then we were gone for most of December – myself in Australia and Nick in Illinois. Doing all of this in my 2nd trimester of pregnancy didn’t leave us with much free time or energy. Finally, in early January, we started getting to know our new neighborhood and discovered a great restaurant – La Dolce Vita – and the beautiful Heritage Square in downtown Oxnard.
A historic part of Oxnard, Heritage Square opened in 1991 to preserve the historical and architectural uniqueness of turn-of-the-century Oxnard. Several houses, a church, water tower, pump house and storehouse have been moved (moved!! imagine moving whole structures!) to a single block and restored to their original condition. The Heritage Square now is a home to multiple businesses, including our new favorite, La Dolce Vita.
Here are a few photos of the Heritage Square (click on the first and then next), with these palm trees it’s just spectacular!!
LA DOLCE VITA: OVERVIEW
Housed in the old McGrath House in Heritage Square, La Dolce Vita (which means Sweet Life in Italian) is an award-winning beloved local staple of a restaurant. Having been operating at the Oxnard’s Hollywood Beach location for over a quarter of a century, it’s recently relocated to this part of the town.
Built in 1901, the house itself is quite beautiful, and together with its newly renovated basement bar – 1901 SPEAKEASY – makes a perfect place to have a fantabulously fun evening out. Nick and I had a great time having drinks (non-alcoholic for me!) at the SPEAKEASY, dining on delicious dishes (here’s some alliteration for you!) at La Dolce Vita upstairs and talking to Michelle Kenney, the lovely owner/executive chef/big cheese. Then, a few days later, we returned for an afternoon of a cooking class extravaganza.
1901 SPEAKEASY AT LA DOLCE VITA
We started our evening at 1901 Speakeasy, the basement bar. While I couldn’t partake in 1901’s famed prohibition era craft cocktails, I was glad when Jared (the mixologist, bar manager, the designer of the Speakeasy and the artist of the beautiful mural/prohibition timeline) offered me a non-alcoholic version of one of his homemade ginger-based drinks. It was delicious! And Nick couldn’t be happier when he saw the fab Gainey Merlot available by the glass on the wine list (Gainey happens to be one of our favorite wineries in the world, located in the Santa Ynez Valley. Their Merlot, specifically, has a great price point and is rather complex and buttery. Highly recommend!). We spent a lot of time talking to Jared, learning all about the renovation of the bar, his beer, mixed drinks and wine list. Make sure to tell him hi for us if you come here!
Here are a few photos from 1901 Speakeasy. Click on the first and go next.
I tried to put a few captions here and there.
LA DOLCE VITA – OUR AMAZING DINNER
Third generation Italian-American, the owner/executive chef Michelle Kenney learned many of her recipes from her mother and grandmother. While quite different from our dinners in Italy (as we’ve mostly spent time in Veneto, Tuscany and Central Italy), the style of food at La Dolce Vita comes from other regions of Italy and is just as delicious!
One of the perks of being a travel writer is getting to try multiple dishes (I always ask for half or at least smaller portions so we could taste more without over-eating) and loved everything. Some of our absolute favorites were Chicken Marsala as well as Pumpkin Ravioli in Cream Sauce (mmm, cream sauce!!).
We got to meet Tom – the chef on duty – and extensively talk to our lovely server, Kitty, who is also third generation Italian.
Here are some food porn and other photos for you 🙂 Click on the first and then next.
OUR COOKING CLASS
We had a blast participating in this class, and even ran into some people we knew! While this group size was larger than usual, it was great fun and we made some new friends. And we ate a lot! 🙂
Kosher Salt Roasted Beet Carpaccio Salad
Pappardelle with Smoked Butter and Herbs
Stuffed Chicken with Fontina, Prosciutto and Basil
Chocolate Molten Spiced Cabernet Cake
Mulled Claret Italian Style
Here are some photos. I love how happy everyone looks – all thanks to Michelle for making it celebratory and awesome! Click on the first and go next.
THE VERDICT? Yes to Oxnard (don’t be afraid of the not-so-hip name, haha), yes to historic places like Heritage Square, yes to La Dolce Vita and yes to cooking classes!
I hope you enjoyed! I can’t wait to return to La Dolce Vita (and hopefully to take another cooking class). While our dining and cooking experiences were complimentary (many thanks again to Michelle, the owner), all views and photos are entirely my own. I stand by every word – as always.
Any comments and thoughts? What are your favorite Italian restaurants in Oxnard/Ventura area? What about historic places? Please let me know so I can mark it on GoogleMaps for future travels! Also.. if you find any typos, please let me know. I am obsessed with proper grammar and spelling but…. I type too damn fast and sometimes simply space out:)