They are proud sellers of exclusive Milanese 7Gr coffee: sublime with a deep dense flavour and perfectly velvety crema
Dolcezza is a brand new café and pasticceria (that’s an Italian patisserie, as you’d probably figured) situated inside the old Freeman’s Catalogue building – now the Printworks development – at the Oval end of Clapham Road. The large warehouse-y space – high ceilings and obligatory bare brick walls and wooden floors – seats up to 50 on a mixture of European style bar stools at high tables and traditional café tables, each adorned with a miniature wine crate housing an orchid; very minimal, very stylish. We’re here on the busy opening night – but once the launch buzz has passed, will customers in this rather sparse part of SW9 be minimal too?
This part of Oval has been overlooked for some time – and Dolcezza, situated beneath Printworks’ flats, has just one neighbour: Tesco Metro. It’s a functional road rather than one you’d naturally be drawn to for a coffee stop; with only the local college and a few corner shops en route from Stockwell tube station it’s difficult to imagine who would frequent Dolcezza – the residents above? A lack of local businesses suggests passing footfall may be low. I hope to be proved wrong.
Dolcezza is primarily a cafe, open on weekdays until 6pm and 5pm on Saturdays, so soirées are not their normal style – which is a huge shame because they did it so well on the opening night – with the team serving chilled Prosecco, wine, fragrant bellinis and Aperol spritzers in abundance.
But cakes, pastries and desserts are Dolcezza’s speciality, and we got treated to some of their showstoppers with trays of gooey chocolate brownies, teeny chocolate cups, deliciously light cannoli with perfectly vanilla-y custard and melt-in-the mouth pastry, bite-sized fruit flans and squares of raspberry cheesecake (actually rather disappointing in comparison to the other heavenly delights – borderline bland, with a too solid base and an overriding yoghurty sourness). All available to buy individually or in large size to take home if one piece is not enough. (And one piece is never going to be enough.)
Savoury canapés were also plentiful; delicious but it’s difficult for a cheese-topped oatcake to compete with the sheer visual beauty of their pastries, no matter how gloriously smooth and creamy and flavoursome the cheese was. However, the mini crostini topped with treacly caramelised onions were divine and the perfect antidote to all the sugar on offer. If this is a representation of their usual daytime savoury offerings (of Italian sandwiches, pizzette and salads) then SW9 is for a treat.
Coffee is their other speciality; they are proud sellers of exclusive Milanese 7Gr coffee. For the non coffee geeks among us this is supposed to be the best there is, and it was sublime with a deep dense flavour and perfectly velvety crema. Italian “latte art” champion Chiara Bergonzi was on hand with a demonstration, painstakingly creating everything from rabbits to leaves and hearts on the top of the drinks with a cocktail stick (see main image).
There is an outside area but it’s effectively a car park overlooked by flats, suitable only for loitering and smoking. And the lack of outdoor space is the one major downside of an otherwise fantastic building, especially in recent temperatures. A buzzing atmosphere and minimal ventilation did lead to a rather “glowing” crowd – it’s a shame that the only decent option on a sunny day would be to sit inside.
Dolcezza is definitely worth a visit, though it will really come into its own in the colder weather when you really want to be inside warming yourself with the sensational coffee and filling up on sticky treats. But definitely one to avoid if you’re calorie counting – I defy anyone to leave without sampling at least one of their tiny cakes, and as I said: one will never be enough.
Words & photos: Sarah Groszewski
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