Fort Lauderdale beach restaurant La Dolce Vita was named for Italian director Federico Fellini's intricate, three-hour, 1960 masterpiece of the same name.
But the place is deceptively simple.
The movie was set among Roman landmarks and followed a journalist's hopeless search for passion and romance while covering a Swedish-American celebrity's jaunt through the Italian capital. The three Italians who own Fort Lauderdale's 70-seat "Sweet Life" -- chef Renato Polidori, Christian D'Amore, and Fabio Bruni -- eschew that complexity. Inside La Dolce Vita, there is no copy of Michelangelo's towering statue of David or a reincarnation of his Sistine Chapel frescoes.
"Authentic Italian doesn't mix many ingredients," Polidori says on the phone in a thick Italian accent. "Just two or three that fit."
No dish on La Dolce Vita's two-page menu proves it's possible to draw incredible flavor from limited ingredients better than cacio e pepe. Translated, the name means "cheese and pepper," and that's all there is to it. Toothsome spaghetti is tossed in pasta water, cracked black pepper, and Parmesan cheese. The warm water melts the rich, salty cheese, creating a luscious sauce that has a hint of bite and spice.
The restaurant's décor is also simpler than expected. Cherry wood chairs surround tables draped with white and burgundy tablecloths. Each is set with matching burgundy napkins and oversized red wineglasses. Servers echo Bruni's nostalgic sentiment of a bygone era as they gracefully navigate the small space replying "perfecto, grazie" to every order and "prego" after each thank you.
While the name is perhaps overused, Bruni says the trio picked it because "it's happiness in a restaurant."
"It's my favorite movie," he says, "and for me, it's very nostalgic."
Black-and-white Fellini stills, which Bruni brought with him from his now-closed restaurant in Italy, hang high on the walls inside the intimate space.