Find keto food and friends at Syracuse’s Dolce Vita

Find keto food and friends at Syracuse's Dolce Vita

Restaurant owner Antonietta Vigliotti builds a keto diet community at Dolce Vita.
Published: November 27, 2018
Keto-friendly dish at Dolce Vita restaurant in Syracuse.

Three years ago, Antonietta Vigliotti, owner of Syracuse’s Dolce Vita restaurant, was dependent on steroids and feared that she’d soon become allergic to them. She also knew she needed to lose major weight, so she talked with a trainer who encouraged her to start exercising and to follow a ketogenic lifestyle with a high fat, minimum carb diet. Afterward, Vigliotti’s meals consisted of 70 percent fat, 25 percent protein and 5 percent carbohydrates. Three years later, she has lost over 100 pounds and doesn’t need steroids anymore, which she attributes to food.

“It’s like the fountain of youth,” Vigliotti said. “It’s revitalizing.”

In Syracuse, the keto trend continues to gain popularity. When Vigliotti started her keto lifestyle in 2015, she said few people had heard of it. Now, Syracuse has an online keto community of over 500 active members since the Facebook group, called Keto Syracuse, began in December 2017. This community’s growth was one of the reasons that Vigliotti began a keto-specific menu at her restaurant, Dolce Vita, and she adds that nearly 70 percent of their business comes from keto dishes alone.

Although the keto diet has been used in the medical community for many years as a treatment for conditions like diabetes and epilepsy, it is now being used as a popular weight loss method. According to Kathryn Szklany, a dietician at State University of New York Oswego, a ketogenic diet forces the body to go into ketosis where the body burns fat as fuel when done strictly. Despite its growing popularity in 2018, many experts don’t recommend the diet unless closely monitored by doctors or dieticians. At a minimum, Szklany said, keto is a hard diet to follow because of its restrictiveness, but at the worst, it can cause severe dehydration or flu-like symptoms.

According to Alexandra Lewin-Zwerdling of Food Insight, the number of people who reported being on restrictive diets like keto has risen from 14 to 36 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to their most recent food and health survey. The survey also found that 33 percent of people surveyed blame carbs for weight gain.

“All of a sudden, it’s becoming a balloon,” Vigliotti said of keto, adding that she feels it is just now getting to its highest point, especially in Syracuse.

Launching their keto menu at Dolce Vita, she said, opened doors for the local keto community. Vigliotti has always liked going to each table to talk to diners, but after the keto menu began, she realized that there would be multiple tables of keto diners each night who didn’t know each other. She used the online group to advertise keto mixers at her restaurant, allowing the online community to meet in person and to continue its growth.

“It’s extremely supportive,” Vigliotti said of the Syracuse keto group. “If you have a bad day, you post on that group, and everyone’s there to lift you up.”

Philip Langlois, who considers himself a “keto evangelist,” founded Keto Syracuse in December 2017, shortly after starting the diet. He also believes Vigliotti was crucial in the growth of Syracuse’s keto community.

After meeting with a doctor who told Langlois that he needed to get healthier and improve his blood counts, Langlois began doing his own research into metabolism by listening to health podcasts while walking. He lost 50 pounds and got his blood counts to normal levels using the ketogenic diet. Despite his better health, Langlois said he still felt frustrated that his doctor didn’t understand his decision to eat a keto diet.

That frustration inspired Langlois to begin the Syracuse keto group on Facebook. He wanted the group to focus on local information, not nutritional facts or how-to tips like the bigger, national groups. He envisioned a group that would share what local vendors at the farmer’s market have keto-friendly products or which restaurants have the best keto dishes, but most importantly, a community that would support each other if the medical community didn’t.  

“I was really surprised,” Langlois said of watching the group’s quick growth. “I realized keto was nothing short of life changing for many people.”

Maureen Franklin, a dietician at Upstate Medical University, said she doesn’t generally support the keto diet for the average person looking to lose weight. Even for those with chronic conditions, she worries that keto dieters aren’t looking at the types of fats they’re eating or getting enough nutrients since keto generally doesn’t allow for many fruits or vegetables. Franklin also recognizes that diehard dieters often won’t listen to experts. She described keto as a glitzy, fad diet she hopes will fade eventually.

“People don’t want to hear what dieticians have to say. You’ve got to work at it,” Franklin said of losing weight. “You’ve got to watch your portions. You’ve got to exercise.”