Texts, masks, gloves, sanitizers — and good food

By on May 26, 2020

Why a return to indoor dining felt safe and pleasant

Servers now come with masks and gloves.

This past weekend North Carolina relaxed its rules concerning restaurant operations in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. The new rules require restaurants to follow strict protocols in every aspect of their service. And for the policy to be effective, customer behaviors will also require some changes.

But the $64,000 question on the minds of many is a simple one. Is it safe to dine out under the new policies? And perhaps we can add a 64-year-old question. Can senior citizens also enjoy returning to restaurants operating under the new policies? While each individual must make their own risk assessment, in the judgment of our party of four — all of whom would qualify for a ‘senior discount’ somewhere in the world of retail — the  conclusion is positive. We decided upon La Dolce Vita — a popular Italian-themed restaurant in Corolla as our destination.

We’ve reviewed this establishment in the Voice before and it was conducting an unadvertised soft opening this past Saturday as a test run under the new state policies. We called ahead to see if customers needed masks and were told that we did, but only when we checked in and as we were being escorted to our table.

The restaurant is located in the TimBuck II shopping center and the parking lot was full but not overflowing. A few other restaurants and a handful of stores were open.

Our party donned our masks and headed to the entrance where we were greeted by a sign asking that only one member of the party check in. Everyone else was to remain outside.

Our designee for the task returned and said a table would be ready quickly. We were to be joined by the parents of chef Anne-Marie Marzetti, who co-owns the restaurant with her mother Barbara. Her father Al is a retired lawyer and a magistrate in Corolla so now we were a party of six.

As we lingered outside, we noticed the setting provides ample opportunity for patrons to social distance while waiting to be served. The staff member checking your party in will take a mobile phone number and call you — allowing parties to sit at benches, visit some shops or walk around in safety. You can even choose to return to your car. You will be called or texted on the phone when your table is ready. If you are close by when you call (within a few minutes arrival) and a table is available, it will be held for you.

When our table was ready, we were greeted by a staff member donned in a mask. We were also required to wear our masks while being escorted to our table and then informed we could remove them once seated.

While no one was seated at the bar when we came in, the bar area had tables distanced six or more feet apart for customers to enjoy some pre-dinner libations. Inside, there is a combination of tables and booths in the dining area. The tables were easily six feet apart and the distancing was provided at the booths by only seating parties in every other station — a distance of well over six feet. A small outdoor dining area is also available and once more —separation between tables was six or more feet.

The table itself was devoid of any utensils or glasses — no pre-setting, as is customary. Under the new procedures, everything a customer might touch is designed for one-time use. Once we settled in at the table, silverware was brought wrapped in sealed plastic wrap, including paper napkins, menus were printed on paper that is disposed of once orders are placed, and glasses were brought along with water.

Social distancing outside the restaurant.

Condiments are also brought to the table as single use and then thrown away after the party leaves. In essence, everything a customer touches is single use and is either disposed of after that use or, as in the case of plates and glasses, re-washed and sanitized as has always been the case. The entire staff was masked and wore gloves.

We spoke to chef and co-owner Anne-Marie Marzetti about the procedures La Dolce Vita have implemented.

“Before we re-opened, we had the entire staff take the Count On Me NC state training. Everyone in the kitchen is ‘Serve Safe Food Handler Certified’ or ‘Serve Safe Manager Certified.’ Me and the managers also did the Serve Safe COVID training as well. The Count on Me NC was specific to North Carolina mandated regulations under the COVID-19 re-opening policies,” she explained.

This is why only one member of the party is allowed to check in. While some restaurants have implemented a reservation-only policy, La Dolce Vita is using a call ahead option and will still take walk-ins if there’s space. With only 50% capacity allowed, Marzetti suggested the call-ahead option would be the best choice as the season gets into full swing.

Social distancing inside the restaurant.

Once a party leaves, everything is bleached and sanitized using products approved under the guidelines. “Under the new rules tables, chairs and contact surfaces aren’t just cleaned as before — everything is sanitized, and the training taught the staff the difference between the two concepts,” Marzetti added.

Hand sanitizers are placed all over the restaurant so clients can also have access to those products, especially after paying for the meal where some handling of the bill and the credit cards is required by staff and customers. If you have leftovers, another change in procedure is that customers must box their own food as servers no longer perform that task for you.

There have also been some menu changes. “We found out, especially since COVID, people want to eat earlier so we’ve dispensed with the lunch menu for this season and are open from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and do the same menu the entire time. So right now, it’s the dinner menu with our usual entrees, pizzas and salad. As we build capacity, if regulations are relaxed, we’ll add some light fare such as antipasto choices,” Marzetti said. Take out is still available also.

We felt quite isolated and safe during our visit. There’s plenty to explore in the TimBuck II shopping center if you must wait for a table, so there’s need to fear waiting outside in long lines or crowded areas.

Seafood Diablo

The food as usual was excellent as our table sampled Chicken Parmesan, Seafood Diablo, a slightly spiced mix of shrimp, mussels and lump crab meat tossed in a spicy marinara bourbon cream sauce served over an ample bed of spaghetti, the largest Lasagna dish I’ve ever seen with ground Italian sausage, meatballs, and a blend of ricotta and mozzarella cheese, and a lovely Smoked Salmon Salad large enough for two. Entrees ranged from $17.99 to $27.99 and there was a full selection of appetizers, soups and salads, desserts as well as full bar service.

As an added bonus, readers can watch chef and co-owner Anne-Marie Marzetti as a contestant in Guy Fieri’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” on the Food Network this Wednesday, May 27 at 9:00 p.m.

La Dolce Vita
798 Sunset Blvd
Timbuck II Shopping Center
Corolla, NC
Hours: 3-9 | Phone: 252-453-0069
Website: https://www.ladolcevitacorolla.com/


  • Really?

    So how exactly are servers wearing gloves supposed to protect the person dining?? The gloves only protect the person wearing them! I say “no thanks” to someone wearing gloves and touching everything In sight and then touching my surroundings…. be safe but be sensible.

    Tuesday, May 26 @ 5:44 pm
  • john

    only Liberal idiots would think this was a perfectly acceptable way to run a business – every single full service restaurant/bar would be closed within a year if this became the new norm

    Tuesday, May 26 @ 8:39 pm
  • Slappy

    Single use seems wasteful, why not while things down?

    Wednesday, May 27 @ 6:35 am
  • Kenneth

    I went out to dinner for the first time in 3 months, I couldn’t wait! I will not go out until this nonsense is over. It was a very uncomfortable feeling to be served by a mask-wearing bartender and six feet from others. I go out to enjoy socializing with others, this was just a continuation of the fake propaganda being spewed at us all day, everyday.

    Wednesday, May 27 @ 7:49 am
  • Paul

    Russ, thanks—your commentary was deeply insightful of the issues facing restaurants and the concerns customers may have.

    Retailers, restaurants, and other small businesses are the front lines guarding the safety of Outer Banks citizens. A visitor may come down here, contact the virus in their household of 20+ people and return home where it is then diagnosed. We may never hear about it. But if employees working in these businesses contact the coronavirus it can rapidly spread within that business, to their family and throughout the community.

    Guarding our communities safety is a Herculean task for these people, much less just keeping the lights on and maybe breaking even. Let’s show our support and set an example to our visitors by practicing safe distancing and wearing a mask when this is not possible.

    Wednesday, May 27 @ 8:26 am
  • Elayne

    Thanks to the state of NC and the Outer Banks for doing the right thing by requiring masks and social distancing in restaurants. We are coming there in a week for our vacation and feel like it will be a safe experience. And to John who only doesn’t care to protect anyone, I say, be careful you never know! Many have had to apologize.

    Wednesday, May 27 @ 9:56 am
  • anotherobxman

    Only in a perfect world where EVERYONE does exactly what they are supposed to do EVERY time would something like this even BEGIN to work. People standing around outside will not wear their masks (simply because they don’t think they have to) and they will not properly “social distance”. The staff would have to be extremely diligent with the sanitizing between dining groups. That MIGHT last a few days at best. Above all, the simple risk of being inside a building with multiple other persons alone raises the risk to intolerable levels in itself.

    The real $64,000 question is whether having chicken parmesan or whatever dish you choose really worth risking your life and the lives of others to have it prepared for you and served to you? If the answer is “yes” then the value placed on human life is miniscule indeed.

    Wednesday, May 27 @ 12:31 pm
  • Allabunchofhypocrites

    So sad.. and so weird. I feel badly for the restaurants.. unfortunetly due to “fake” science that is forever incorrect, forever changing at the stroke of a pen, they must bend over, in order to open.. depressing.. and really, why bother? IF you, as a patron, are so worry about your safety, YOU should stay home.. really. Just more CANCEL CULTURE. Tired of this “in it together crap.” We are not.. not by a long shot. And by the way.. the mask wearing,glove wearing, “table bleaching,” “GERMAPHOBIA, what a load of garabage.. So many items get touched, BEFORE it reaches your mouth in the form of food.. from the cargo ship from wherever, with your vegs., to the delivery guy in the truck, the mop on the floor that never gets cleaned properly, etc… it is IMPOSSIBLE to stay germ free… IMPOSSIBLE…. so get over it… germs are good.. and by the way, chances are YOU ALREADY GOT THE VIRUS AND DID NOT KNOW IT, OR THOUGHT IT WAS ‘JUST A COLD.’ These “sanitation” guidelines are a dog and pony show… shame on the suckers who buy this crap. KEEP AMERICA SCARED VERY SCARED….

    Wednesday, May 27 @ 12:53 pm
  • Trashcan Man

    Gloves are merely one use prophylactics. After touching something, they should be discarded. So, imagine the number of gloves that SHOULD be used in a single seating. Hand sanitizer is much more effective.

    Wednesday, May 27 @ 1:16 pm
  • Mike P

    It is what it is!! We all have our views but Please don’t take it out on the restaurant workers as many already have.
    The restaurant workers are working harder than ever with a whole lot less to work with. Add the new rules and reduced occupancy it is very hard for these businesses to even break even right now
    They have been thrown under the bus and could use some kindness.
    These are hard working people NOT POLITICIANS so don’t take it out on them!
    If you need to have food fast then go to a fast food restaurant.
    If you don’t have time to wait and or you can’t be nice to the workers than just stay away until things improve to your satisfaction.

    Wednesday, May 27 @ 2:33 pm
  • Lulu

    Well said Mike P! Thank you!

    Saturday, May 30 @ 4:49 pm
  • Tom

    Folks should not forget to wear their tin foil hats when going indoors.
    We will not patronize any establishment that requires a mask to enter. Science has been thrown out the window and replaced by political correctness and virtue signaling.
    Folks need to turn off their 4HD propaganda flat screen TVs and go online to the CDC website and get the number of flu cases (56 million) and compare that to the wuhancoronavirus cases (less than 2 million) to see what is contagious.

    Sunday, May 31 @ 12:21 pm