We Bitches love our sweets, which is why we adore Dolci Gelati. As food snobs and locavores, we feel good running to Whole Foods to snag a pint of this gelato, as it’s made from all-natural, organic, and local ingredients (and it has half the fat and a third of the calories when compared to traditional ice cream).
Dolci Gelati is owned and operated by a good lookin’ local couple, Anastasia and Gianluigi. The busy pair founded the company together in 2006, and have been through a whirlwind year, opening a brick-and-mortar shop and launching a food truck in 2013. Not to mention they have an adorable pair of Italian tots and a Goldendoodle at home. Sounds like a charmed adventure, if there ever was one.
We caught up with Anastasia and Gianlugi to chat all things gelato and entrepreneurship, and to see what’s next on their bright horizon.
Let’s start from the beginning, what made you want to start a gelato company?
Anastasia: My husband, Italian native Gianluigi Dellaccio, is a former professional water polo player turned professional pastry chef who came to Washington, D.C., in 2000. He was able to land some coveted positions at celebrated culinary establishments in the District including Roberto Donna’s Galileo and The Ritz-Carlton.
While working for these notable dining venues, Gianluigi had the honor of serving some of his gourmet pastries to VIPs including Bono, and Bill Clinton, among others. Meanwhile, my background includes experience related to launching various brands such as Peroni and P.I.N.K. vodka. So, in 2006 Gianluigi and I decided to launch Dolci Gelati, Washington’s first and only authentic Italian owned and operated gelato and sorbetto company.
We’re of the opinion that gelato and sorbetto are universal. They bring people of all ages and backgrounds together creating memories and enjoyment. Since building launching Dolci Gelati in 2006 with a focus on wholesale and retail, we’ve expanded. We launched our first brick-and-mortar shop in Takoma Park, Maryland, the Dolci Gelati Café, this spring, and launched our first food truck, the Dolci Gelati Truck this summer.
We love all the wonderful flavors you offer. How do you come up with such a variety of flavors?
Gianluigi: We currently offer more than 300 flavors of gelato and sorbetto flavors at Dolci Gelati and take pride in paying close attention to detail in every step of the process, incorporating fresh and seasonal ingredients whenever possible.
As proud parents of two young children, we want all of our products to be as natural, healthy, and safe as possible. Thanks to my background as a chef in Italy and Germany, I’m constantly inspired by a wide variety of sources including my family, friends, customers, culinary colleagues, etc. I’m always looking for the next creative combination. The possibilities are endless when it comes to gelato and sorbetto flavors and textures, and homemade pastries.
Is there a secret to your gelato having such amazing flavor with only one-third the fat of ice cream?
Anastasia: Dolci Gelati’s secret—aside from passion—is using only the freshest, seasonal, and local (whenever possible) ingredients, and using authentic Italian family recipes that date back almost a century! Gianluigi has become such a force in the gelato world that he was invited and continues to serve as a professional gelato class instructor at GTI in New York.
You have started selling your gelato in grocery stores such as Whole Foods. Was it difficult to get your product on the shelves in well-known grocery stores?
Gianluigi: When we launched Dolci Gelati, we had to hit the ground running to help build our brand. We literally drove a Vespa around town with a cooler strapped to the back and went door-to-door with samples of our gelato and sorbetto to restaurants to get the word out. It took a tremendous amount of persistence to get our product into the markets like Whole Food. However, at the end of the day our product is delicious so it is not that hard of a sell!
What has been the most rewarding thing about running a business, particularly doing so with your spouse?
Gianluigi: Anastasia serves as my ultimate confection muse for almost all of my creations. And working with her has meant so much to me. The beauty of not only creating a family business, but sharing a story about your extended family’s history, means a lot to both of us. Gelato and sorbetto brings our family together and we enjoy seeing our products bring other families together too!
Moreover, we both bring different strengths to the table, I handle the creation of the product, the day-to-day workings of the business; and Anastasia is great at branding, marketing, communications, and business development.
What has been the most challenging?
Gianluigi: Learning to adapt and grow the business in a way that maintains our authenticity and sense of quality and knowing when to take the right types of risks to grow the business.
What is the one thing you have learned from opening your own company?
Gianluigi: To make sure that whatever you decide to do, it’s is something that you are truly passionate about. And to grow slow—one step at a time—don’t rush things.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Anastasia: Follow your dreams! It’s never too late to do what you love. There is such thing as having an exciting, fun, and rewarding career. If you are passionate about what you do and are confident in what you create than you will ultimately be successful.
What are your top three favorite gelato flavors that you have created?
Gianluigi: Salted Caramel and our vanilla. It’s said that the quality of your vanilla really says a lot about the true quality of your product and skills. And Anastasia’s favorite is our white chocolate raspberry.
Your gelato contains no artificial flavors. Where do you source all of your ingredients from?
Anastasia: Dolci Gelati really goes the extra mile to not only support local vendors, farmers, producers in the DC area, but Americans in general. We want what’s fresh and in season as that has a major impact on the overall quality of our products. In addition to local farmers, vendors, and producers, we also really embrace the idea of community collaboration and are working with as many local companies in the area as possible.
We’re collaborating with fellow Italian native Francesco Amodeo of Don Ciccio & Figli,who makes beautiful Italian-inspired artisanal liqueurs like Limoncello and Concerto – both flavors of which we decided to turn into delicious boozy gelato this summer! It was huge hit and we hope to continue collaborations like this and of course explore as many new opportunities as possible.
You recently launched the Dolci Gelati Truck. What’s it like operating a food truck in Washington?
Gianluigi: Yes! We launched our first food truck – Dolci Gelati Truck this summer and are lucky to have someone very special, Sierra Georgia, running that aspect of the brand for us. We work closely with her and have really enjoyed watching her take Dolci Gelati products on the road (literally) and get to see all of the beautiful smiles behind each scoop! You can follow the truck on Twitter at @DolciGelatiTruk.
What’s next for Dolci Gelati?
Anastasia: 2013 has been an extremely busy and exciting year for us at Dolci Gelati, and 2014 has plenty of surprises in store for us as well, including the opening of our second Dolci Gelati Café– in Shaw with a targeted opening of next spring. The opening of this shop is going to help us take our brand to a whole new level. Gianluigi is really looking forward to bringing the gelato to Shaw and debuting a whole new arsenal of both sweet and savory goodies.