Food & Wine People Restaurant Review

Dolce Delights

Restaurateurs Lonnie Moore and Mike Malin have stepped up Hollywood nightlife by forming The Dolce Group. Most Los Angeles nightlife is here today and gone tomorrow, closing or renovating, sometimes after only months of opening. The Dolce Group seems to have broken the rules and set a new standard for longevity. In only a few short years the dynamic duo has built an empire starting with one small club in Hollywood to owning several top rated restaurants that cater to an impressive clientele. Dolce, Bella, Les Deux, Geisha House and Ketchup have sparked interest with foodies, A-list celebrities, the young and the old. They are what’s happening, and have replicated their Los Angeles based success in other top cities around the country, including Atlanta, D.C., Dallas and Reno.

Mike and Lonnie, best friends since summer camp, know what Los Angeles is hungry for. Upon moving to Los Angeles after college, they hit the top “see and be seen” places night after night and discovered that complete fulfillment was nowhere to be found. “We were just two young guys looking for a place to go out, and feel special and comfortable at the same time” says Lonnie. “We were tired of looking at boring menus, we were smart, but felt like the pressure of pronouncing a dish incorrectly caused an uncomfortable tension. And when you’re uncomfortable, you don’t have fun.” Lonnie and Mike set out to conquer the idea that fine dining should be fun. And, says Mike, “it should be an experience that titillates all of your senses.” They opened Dolce in 2003 with the help of Ashton Kutcher and other top name celebrity investors. Dolce presented itself as a hip Italian restaurant filled with flickering votive candles and sexy tones of ambient music. Celebrities not only lend their names to this place, they show up time and time again. “The celebrities will get people there one time, but if you don’t have the product, that novelty wears off,” says Mike. After two years of consistent success with Dolce, they realized they had created their own novelty in Los Angeles and were ready to open something that pushed the envelope a little further.

In 2005, the Dolce Group gave birth to Geisha House. “We felt that Los Angeles didn’t have enough originality, someone needed to take a chance,” says Lonnie. The bright red façade cannot be missed and the interior experience will not be forgotten. Geisha House brings you into the future, Tokyo 2050. The lighting surrounding the surreal décor is muted. Geisha girls serve drinks and food to the sounds of pumping music — the fantasy of the geisha lifestyle comes to life. With an impressive selection of rare sakes and fresh flavors of traditional Japanese cuisine, Geisha House has become a staple in Angelinos tour de nightlife.

In 2005 Lonnie and Mike opened Bella, their Italian restaurant and wine bar, which is right down the street from Geisha house. Although not as ostentatious as Geisha house, Bella is just as much of a scene and comes with all the same key elements that make the Dolce Group stand out. Bella conjures up a sense where every one could know your name, and your server will most likely remember it when you come back in search for more pasta.

A year later in 2006, Lonnie and Mike revamped old hot spot Les Deux with their golden touch and made it the new hot spot, with an atmosphere of old European glamour. Once inside Les Deux, you truly feel like Hollywood royalty. The patio is the main attraction and is outfitted with a central fountain. Candelabras tangled in freesias light the atmosphere, and the DJ plays your favorite songs all night long.

Ketchup is the newest creation from the Dolce Group. In this restaurant they have taken Los Angeles back to their childhood with a sophisticated twist on an old school diner. Located on the Sunset Strip in the hottest part of West Hollywood, Sunset Plaza. Ketchup is a visual sensation — “diner classy” with sleek modernism. Red globe chandelier lighting, reminiscent of tomatoes, fall from the ceiling and reflect elegantly off the glossy white floors. Sit pretty in one of the retro-plush white leather booths or strut over to the cocktail lounge with oversized floor to ceiling windows which spotlight the scene of Sunset Boulevard. Again, Mike and Lonnie have created a place that is a must try!

The Dolce group is on fire and it seems as though nothing can put them out. Lonnie Moore and Mike Malin invent new ideas everyday with one common plan of action. Mike confesses, “At the end of the day when we look at the positive energy and we see people happy in what we have created, we know that we have accomplished our goal!”

– KRISTEN CARPENTER

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