Vegetarian pasta, Tortelli Bufala with pasta parcels filed with buffalo mozzarella and a Napoli sauce. Picture by Simphiwe Mbokazi

Dolci Café originally opened in 2015 as a small Italian pasticceria (pastry café), by Chef Jackie Righi-Boyd and her husband, actor Clayton Boyd (Generations: The Legacy is just one of his impressive list of credits), as well as their partner Zoran Mijailovic. Righi-Boyd comes from a dynasty of restaurateurs and her mother - super-nonna-chef Luciana Righi of Assaggi, Tre Nonni and Amarcord fame - is part of the team in this friendly neighbourhood eatery.

The interior of Dolci Cafe. Picture by Antonella Ragazzoni.

Although the restaurant business is in her blood, Chef Jackie was originally not interested in a career in food. It was only in her final year of university, studying industrial and organisational psychology, that she started on a pastry course, fell in love with patisserie and ended up as an apprentice to a pastry chef in Italy after working in the corporate world for four years.

I’ve seen Dolci Café evolve into one of the city’s best-loved trattorias, tripling in size along the way. On the menu are many of the signature dishes found on Luciana’s past menus including zucchini fritti (chips), lasagne brie (a twist on the classic made with melt-in-your-mouth thin homemade pasta, oozing brie and asparagus), fluffy gnocchi and as well as a selection of delicious veal dishes.

Pollo farcito (tender chicken breasts layered with Parma ham, Italian cheese and sage, served with potato wedges and a side salad), calamari fritti and veal porcini. Picture by Simphiwe Mbokazi

There’s also Tagliata di Manzo (sliced beef fillet with slow cooked Italian tomatoes and potato wedges), the homemade Tagliatelle Ragu (homemade flat pasta with the traditional Bolognese sauce) and the Cotoletta di Pollo (chicken schnitzel served with freshly sliced tomato, boiled baby potatoes in butter and parsley and a homemade cheese sauce).Dolci Café’s focus is Italian, however there are some other items on the menu including hamburgers, and tapas such as jalapeño poppers and falafel - that give it fusion flair.

A few selections from the Antipasti and Apertivi sections of the Dolci menu. Pictuure by Simphiwe Mbokazi

Desserts are a highlight and include Italian pasticcini, tiramisu and the sublime Dolce Della Nonna, Jackie’s grandmother’s and Luciana’s mother’s famous dessert comprised of layers of zabaglione, cream, amaretti biscuits, pecan nuts and dark chocolate. Little wonder that as well as its comprehensive restaurant menu, Dolci Café also offers fabulous pastries and desserts including cannoli (cream horns),pasticcini, lemon meringue and bigne (eclairs). A delicious high-tea can be booked in advance.

Dolci Della Nonna, Lucianna's mother and Chef Jackie's grandmother's famous dessert. Picture by Simphiwe Mbokazi

“Apart from my mother, my father is also a chef and was brought to South Africa from Italy in the early ‘80s to work in one of the old Italian restaurants in downtown Joburg, says Chef Jackie. “I met Clayton in a well-known Cape Town restaurant where we were both working (he as a waiter and me as a hostess) and we got married five years later.

“Dolci Café truly is a family affair and I love it! It’s hard work but I wouldn’t want to do anything else”, adds Boyd. “People sitting in your shop, having an amazing experience and coming back with their friends and family and telling you how much they love your restaurant makes it all worthwhile”, he says.

Dolci Café is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday and for breakfast and lunch on Sundays. It is fully licensed and offers an array of top South African and international wines. The address is Shop 6, Lancaster Village, 28 Clarence Avenue. Craighall Park, Johannesburg.