Out and About

An eclectic look at things to do and see in New England, By Nell Porter Brown, Source: Harvard Magazine, March-April 2008

Hotel Dolce Villa Providence's Federal Hill neighborhood, where Italian can still be heard spoken on the streets, is a perfect weekend trip. This 14-suite boutique hotel (complete with stainless-steel kitchenettes and whirlpool baths) offers white-on-white décor and sits on DePasquale Square, a European-style piazza with a huge fountain in the center. Atwells Avenue has good shopping, and nearby restaurants include Venda Ravioli, Bob & Timmy's (for grilled pizza), and Pastiche, which proffers the alluring torta di cioccolata along with other delectable desserts.

10 great places to discover Italy — in America

By Kathy Baruffi, Source: USA TODAY, 10/8/2007

Federal Hill - Providence "Stop by Scialo Brothers Bakery and then head to Venda Ravioli for a beautiful lunch with fresh pasta made every day from scratch, all served in a delightful little piazza with opera music blaring from tiny speakers in a Fellini-style setting," Batali says. Stay at the ultra-modern Hotel Dolce Villa on the same little piazza, then catch one of the season's final WaterFire events, spectacular bonfire displays on the river. goprovidence.com

Providence

Boston's Little Neighbor has Finally Come of Age, By Jill Fergus, Source: Latitudes magazine

Providence, the capital of Rhode Island, is no longer in Boston's shadow. Over the last few years, this New England city (an hour-and-a-half drive from Beantown) has really come into its own. The arts scene is buzzing with new galleries and museum expansions, and gourmet restaurants and trendy cocktail lounges have sprung up. Plus, the city's most cherished attraction, an art installation called WaterFire by artist Barnaby Evans (a series of bonfires on Providence's three rivers) runs from May to October. There are also plenty of up-and-coming neighborhoods with their own distinct flavors. One of the most talked-about of these is Federal Hill, a primarily Italian enclave sandwiched between I-95 and Route 6.

Federal Hill, so named for the area's many federal-style houses, had fallen into disrepair in the 1980s when most of the Italian immigrants fled the city for the suburbs. It's been on an upswing during the last decade, as young families, artists, musicians and recent graduates from Providence's prestigious Brown University and the Johnson & Wales Culinary School have put down roots. You'll now find bohemian boutiques, cutting-edge galleries and hip restaurants on the main thoroughfare, Atwells Avenue, alongside Old World bakeries and grocery stores. 

The heart of the Hill is DePasquale Plaza, a leafy pedestrian square lined with open-air cafés whose focal point is a splashing fountain surrounded by wooden benches. It's one of Providence's best people-watching spots and very much like a little slice of Italy, with locals and tourists enjoying a glass of wine at outdoor tables as they listen to strolling musicians. Recently, a new boutique hotel called Dolce Villa (dolcevillari.com) opened right on the square, offering 14 ultra-modern suites featuring white-on-white bedrooms and living areas with white leather sofas, chairs and flat-screen televisions. Kitchens are equipped with stainless steel refrigerators and stoves (some rooms offer gas fireplaces and plaza-facing balconies). 

The owner of the hotel, Gianfranco Marrocco, also owns a popular restaurant on the square, Geppetto's (geppettospizzeria.com), a casual restaurant known for its pastas and grilled pizza (try the Old World and Mediterranean styles). Other Federal Hill restaurants worth checking out include Siena (sienaprovidence.com) and Mediterraneo. Siena is a recently opened Tuscan restaurant owned by brothers Anthony and Chris Tarro, whose parents grew up in Federal Hill. It's always buzzing here—even the 12 barstools fill up for dinner. Order a glass of Prosecco and enjoy dishes such as pappa al pomodoro (traditional tomato and bread soup), broccoli rabe and sweet sausage pizza, homemade potato and ricotta gnocchi and tagliatelle alla Bolognese. Mediterraneo serves a mix of traditional and modern Italian food, including grilled salmon marinated in olive oil, white wine and garlic, and gnocchi in a tomato and basil sauce.

Late night in Federal Hill, most people tend to enjoy the scene at DePasquale Plaza, lingering over a tiramisu dessert and a frothy cappuccino. But for those who crave a bit more action, there's Lili Marlene's on Atwells Avenue. There's no visible sign on the door, but you can tell it's the neighborhood hotspot from the hip crowd who flock to this New York-style lounge named for an old WWII soldiers' song. Interiors have a funky Moulin Rouge vibe (red velvet curtains, ox-blood upholstered banquettes), the drinks are cheap, the music is good and the pool table attracts the best players in town. 

The next time you visit Providence, be sure to explore all the city has to offer, especially in Federal Hill, which despite its cosmopolitan edge, still retains its Old World charm.

Hotel Dolce Villa celebrates its grand opening

The first to operate on the Hill in decades., Source: Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin May 24, 2005

PROVIDENCE - Federal Hill welcomed a new hotel to the neighborhood last night, the first one to operate on the hill in decades.

Like Federal Hill itself, the Hotel Dolce Villa is a little piece of Italy nestled along Atwells Avenue.

The three-story, lemon-yellow hotel sits on DePasquale Square, a pedestrian plaza surrounded by cafes, restaurants and shops. Italian music drifts through the building and onto the courtyard.

Though the hotel celebrated its grand opening last night, it opened several months ago and is already attracting customers.

Owner Gianfranco Marrocco said the hotel's 14 rooms were full last weekend, and they are booked this weekend as well.

Two hotel guests, looking slightly underdressed and quite amused by the festivities, sipped wine last night and watched the crowd, which included Mayor David N. Cicilline, several city councilors and Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch.

"We come to Federal Hill once a week," said Mary Danella, of Canton, Mass. She and her husband, Ray, avoid Boston because of the Big Dig.

The couple noticed the Hotel Dolce Villa as it was being renovated, and they booked a room months ago. They had no idea it would be the night of the opening. Several hundred people attended the event.

The Danellas were divided on the all-white decor of the rooms. Nearly everything is white, including the leather sofas, chairs, floor tiles, cabinets, counter tops, bedspreads, walls, curtains and terry-cloth bathrobes.

"He loves it, but I need a little color," said Mary Danella, who suggested they hang some art on the walls. The only hint of color is the black and steel of the kitchen appliances. Every unit has a full kitchen with utensils, pots and pans.

Ray Danella was thinking of buying Italian sausage and frying it up for breakfast.

Marrocco hopes to attract business people who will stay for months at a time. A few New England Patriots players have inquired about the rooms, he said.

Marrocco owns three other Federal Hill businesses, Mediterraneo restaurant, Caffe Dolce Vita and Geppetto's Pizzeria. He also owned Caffe Mambo, a club on Broad Street, but he sold it after the city License Board ordered it temporarily shut down because of violence outside of the club.

Marrocco spent $2 million refurbishing the hotel over four years. The building, which had been empty, had been apartments, though it originally was a jewelry manufacturing company. Marrocco added one floor to make it three stories. The exterior design is based on the architecture of Positano, Italy, while the white interior is inspired by the modern style of South Beach, Fla., he said.

Marrocco also annexed a remarkable building in the rear and named it Villa Toscana. Originally a stable, the two-story building was once an auto-repair garage. Its last owner had transformed it into a home.

The one-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot-villa has a commercial kitchen, two open-air patios, a coy pond and living room. Unlike the modern interior of the hotel, the villa is enveloped by the traditional brick walls, wood floors and stone patios. Vines of ivy climb along the exterior walls.

"It's like I have two children. They both are gorgeous, but they both have separate personalities," Marrocco said of his two buildings.

The villa costs $299 for a night, or $700 for an event. The hotel rooms run from $159 to $219.

"A year from now, the $159 will be $259," he said. "Right now, it's a bargain."

The Danellas sure felt like they got a deal.

Providence, R.I.

The gayest city you've driven right past, By Matthew Link, Source: Gay.com

PROVIDENCE -STAY
"In the Italian neighborhood of Federal Hill, an excellent pick is the gay-friendly Dolce Villa($199-$289), a newly renovated Miami-style property on a pedestrian, café-lined plaza with elegant, minimalist white-on-white one or two-bedroom suites. The Providence Biltmore($139-$499) is the grand dame in downtown, dating back to the 1920s, with Old World-style rooms and $10 million worth of renovations."

Hotel Dolce Villa celebrates its grand opening

The first to operate on the Hill in decades., By Cathleen F. Crowley, Source: Providence Journal. May 24, 2005

PROVIDENCE - Federal Hill welcomed a new hotel to the neighborhood last night, the first one to operate on the hill in decades.

Like Federal Hill itself, the Hotel Dolce Villa is a little piece of Italy nestled along Atwells Avenue.

The three-story, lemon-yellow hotel sits on DePasquale Square, a pedestrian plaza surrounded by cafes, restaurants and shops. Italian music drifts through the building and onto the courtyard.

Though the hotel celebrated its grand opening last night, it opened several months ago and is already attracting customers.

Owner Gianfranco Marrocco said the hotel's 14 rooms were full last weekend, and they are booked this weekend as well.

Two hotel guests, looking slightly underdressed and quite amused by the festivities, sipped wine last night and watched the crowd, which included Mayor David N. Cicilline, several city councilors and Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch.

"We come to Federal Hill once a week," said Mary Danella, of Canton, Mass. She and her husband, Ray, avoid Boston because of the Big Dig.

The couple noticed the Hotel Dolce Villa as it was being renovated, and they booked a room months ago. They had no idea it would be the night of the opening. Several hundred people attended the event.

The Danellas were divided on the all-white decor of the rooms. Nearly everything is white, including the leather sofas, chairs, floor tiles, cabinets, counter tops, bedspreads, walls, curtains and terry-cloth bathrobes.

"He loves it, but I need a little color," said Mary Danella, who suggested they hang some art on the walls. The only hint of color is the black and steel of the kitchen appliances. Every unit has a full kitchen with utensils, pots and pans.

Ray Danella was thinking of buying Italian sausage and frying it up for breakfast.

Marrocco hopes to attract business people who will stay for months at a time. A few New England Patriots players have inquired about the rooms, he said.

Marrocco owns three other Federal Hill businesses, Mediterraneo restaurant, Caffe Dolce Vita and Geppetto's Pizzeria. He also owned Caffe Mambo, a club on Broad Street, but he sold it after the city License Board ordered it temporarily shut down because of violence outside of the club.

Marrocco spent $2 million refurbishing the hotel over four years. The building, which had been empty, had been apartments, though it originally was a jewelry manufacturing company. Marrocco added one floor to make it three stories. The exterior design is based on the architecture of Positano, Italy, while the white interior is inspired by the modern style of South Beach, Fla., he said.

Marrocco also annexed a remarkable building in the rear and named it Villa Toscana. Originally a stable, the two-story building was once an auto-repair garage. Its last owner had transformed it into a home.

The one-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot-villa has a commercial kitchen, two open-air patios, a coy pond and living room. Unlike the modern interior of the hotel, the villa is enveloped by the traditional brick walls, wood floors and stone patios. Vines of ivy climb along the exterior walls.

"It's like I have two children. They both are gorgeous, but they both have separate personalities," Marrocco said of his two buildings.

The villa costs $299 for a night, or $700 for an event. The hotel rooms run from $159 to $219.

"A year from now, the $159 will be $259," he said. "Right now, it's a bargain."

The Danellas sure felt like they got a deal.

Staff writer Cathleen F. Crowley can be reached at (401) 277- 7376 or ccrowley@projo.com.

* * *

* Gianfranco Marrocco, owner of the Hotel Dolce Villa, shows off the back courtyard of the Villa Toscana, located behind the 3- story, 14-room hotel on Federal Hill's DePasquale Square.

EDITORIAL

Capri on Atwells, Source: The Providence Journal Jun 12, 2005

In warm weather, no place in Providence beats DePasquale Square, on Atwells Avenue in Federal Hill, for Italian charm and liveliness. Now, for the first time in decades, a hotel has opened up that caters to visitors who want to besot themselves with a full swig of the old country.

Gianfranco Marrocco, who also owns the restaurants Mediterraneo and La Dolce Vita, has opened, next door to the latter, La Dolce Villa (get it?). The 14 suites occupy a formerly boring building on the square. A third story has been added, and the whole elegantly refaaded, painted lemon yellow with white trim and ship's-hull balcony railings. Think Capri.

And in back of La Dolce Villa, Mr. Marrocco has added what amounts to a honeymoon suite -- a former stable-turned-garage- turned-apartment now recast as Villa Toscana. The two-story brick structure has two piazzi and is covered with vines.

The suites have their own kitchens, so visitors can stay on and on, if work demands or leisure permits -- though it's not as if there aren't enough restaurants nearby if they're hungry. La dolce vita indeed!

More hotel rooms. Good work.