An overnight success when it opened in 2006, Dolce Vita, which occupies a rambling two-story Victorian house, feels like a private—but very welcoming—club for the young and hip Montrose denizens who swarm here every evening, spilling out onto the restaurant's jasmine-covered patio. A casual spin-off of the tony Da Marco (a few blocks west, at 1520 Westheimer), Dolce Vita is an upscale pizza parlor, but what pizza it is: rustic, crisp, thin-crust wonders baked in a wood-fired oven. Go vegetarian (cauliflower, broccoli rabe, garlic), or order your pie topped with thinly sliced prosciutto and plump sausage. If you're not yet ready to cry basta, try the truffle toast, grilled rib eye with asparagus and risotto, pumpkin-and-goat-cheese croquettes, or ricotta-and-spinach gnocchi.
Tip: If you come between 8 and 10 p.m., when the ground floor rooms in the old house can be deafening, escape to one of the quieter corners upstairs.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.