My search for a really sweet Canberra dessert bar came to a sudden and unexpected pause when I stumbled across Via Dolce. It's not that I hadn't seen the place before - I definitely had - but for some reason, it always has the appearance of being shut. Perhaps this is a strategy to ensure only those who really, really want a good dessert fix find their way in by desperately pushing a door that seems closed? Or more likely it's just a trick of the light. Whatever the reason, I'm so glad the door swung open.
In I swished to find a secret world of jewel-like cakes, pastries and other treats. This wasn't just tiny sweets looking pretty - there are some heavy hitters nestled in the three (count them - three!) cabinets stretching from one side of the café to the other. Whole, monstrous cakes, prim slices and cups of mousse and brulee all jostled for my spellbound attention. Just when I started to calm down, I saw the gelato fridges - two of them bursting at the seams with pastel coloured temptation.
Pistachio and passion fruit slice, Via Dolce Cafe, Canberra City.
I decided to dine in and sat at one of the marble-topped tables under a pendulous chandelier. I got nervous while I waited, worried that the flavour wouldn't live up to the prettiness of the desserts but the worry was unfounded. The flavours were full and, in the way of good desserts, they weren't too sweet. The pistachio and passionfruit slice was just tart enough and the blob of real cream balanced it nicely. The chocolate cannoli had a crunchy shell stuffed with velvety chocolate custard. There were no sickly feelings of guilt after eating them, just a decadent satisfaction.
While I was at my table, I noticed a poster for Aperol spritz - a café with booze! Not a sweet tooth? Don't worry, there's a woodfire pizza oven onsite and a tempting pizza and pasta menu backed up with a solid list of wines and spirits. The tables were filling up early even on a cold winter afternoon so it seems that booking ahead for dinner would be a good idea.
As I munched the last few crumbs from my plate, I wondered how Via Dolce had been kept secret from me for so long. Italian music piped away, I downed the last few sips of my mint hot chocolate and felt like this was really it - la dolce vita right in the middle of Canberra.