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How sweet it is. Lakewood is one of the prettiest parts of Dallas, but it lacks certain urban quality-of-life requirements. You can't get good groceries there, or go to a first-run movie. Good restaurants are scarce and--until recently--to get a good cup of espresso you had to drive across, or down, town. But La Dolce Vita indeed breathes new life into the neighborhood. It's arty, cozy, and open late. It feels more like a fern bar than a coffee bar; instead of all that determinedly Italian modern design we've gotten used to, there are lots of magazines and comfy sofas and a funky work-in-progress frieze painted around the ceiling. Not to mention the menu of sweets, sandwiches, and the full range of coffee drinks we've also gotten used to. The crowd is pleasingly eclectic; for the oldsters and the cautious, like me, there's plenty of decaf selections.

La Dolce Vita, Abrams and Gaston (next to Dixie House), 821-2608. Open Friday & Saturday 8 a.m.-midnight. Weekdays 7 a.m.- 10 p.m.

--Mary Brown Malouf


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