Saturday, October 3, 2009

La Dolce Vita

As I have mentioned, I am a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and this year the budget cuts cost me dearly. I lost the auxiliary class I have taught for the last nine years, and though this class added the stress of an extra preparation and the attendant papers, it also padded my wallet, which made it a little easier for me to inure myself to teaching four one-and-a-half-hour classes each day with only two brief breaks (20 and 30 minutes respectively). Gates and locks define the boundaries of the campus and these gates and locks are not to be opened until the school day ends, so this means that for the last nine years, I have been almost literally chained to my desk. 

Not once in nine years have I ever “met a friend for lunch” or gone off campus to “grab a bite.” Since there is really no time to do anything but teach my classes, answer student questions, and make small talk in the bathroom line, I practically live in my little isolated realm. I have packed my little island with the essential modern conveniences like a fridge stocked with berries, Greek yogurt, organic peanut butter, whole grain bread, cheese, water, juice; a kettle to boil water for my coffee and oatmeal; and my iPhone so I can enjoy the promise of at least some contact with the outside world during those two luxurious breaks I get. A colleague of mine once asked whether I was hiding a Murphy bed in my book closet. 

This week, on my way back to class during the morning break, I got a call from a dear friend, who asked what I was doing for lunch. The question, alive with the thrill of leisure and adulthood, could have crushed my spirits, but I paused for a second and remembered that this year, because I lost my auxiliary class, I am actually free for a significant chunk of two out of three afternoons a week and this was going to be one of those afternoons. So at 1:15 PM, during the lunch period, I did the previously unimaginable . . . I walked out of school “to meet a friend for lunch,” to “grab a bite.” Fortunately for me, Dolce Isola had opened its doors just up the street. 

The bright red building with its red and white striped awning and little ice-cream tables and chairs out front stands out like an oasis on an otherwise gray section of south Robertson Boulevard. Their pastry case does not contain wilted tuna sandwiches on soggy wheat bread or Brillo pad coffee cake. Nope, this case is full of delectable treats like Mitzi’s Earthquake chocolate cookies, red velvet cupcakes topped with cream cheese icing, lemon squares, chocolate croissants, tea scones, chocolate truffle torts, and I hear the tart tartin is the best anywhere. Just looking at the display gave me a sense of well being. 

For lunch my friend and I first shared the homemade guacamole filled with large chunks of avocado and fresh homemade tortillas--hot and satisfying. My friend opted for the Dolce Club Sandwich, and I picked the Ivy Buffet: Normandy chicken salad, fresh tuna salad, pasta a la checca, and lo scogglio potato salad. Every bite delicious, particularly the potato salad, which, to my great joy, was true Mediterranean comfort food, doused in olive oil. 

What is perhaps most exciting about Dolce Isola is the fact that it is the bakery for The Ivy restaurant. That means not only had I been sprung from my work confinement for the first time in nine years, and not only had I the chance to spend time with my dear friend, but I also had been enjoying a meal that was being similarly enjoyed in the far tonier reaches of the same boulevard. I had briefly traded my work island for the Dolce Isola and enjoyed every second of it--except I forgot to get dessert! Well, next time.


  1. One of my greatest joys in college has been to to leave behind the days of ketchup-as-vegetable and soda-free vending machines, and graduate to local cafes and bottomless mugs of good coffee.

    It's about time that you (a teacher and a full-on adult) should get to enjoy the same privileges that I (a student and a quasi-adult) have begun to take for granted.