Made-from-scratch, authentic gelato is coming to South Austin this week. Owners Marco, Francesca and Leo were born in Italy, and they remember going to the gelato shop as children. “It was the best part of the day,” Marco recalls nostalgically.
All three had successful jobs and first-class educations when they decided to pursue the frozen treat that reminded them of home. A management consultant in New York City, Marco realized “he didn’t like what he was doing anymore.” When he told his sister Francesca, who was working on a Ph.D in Finance, she was in the same boat. “I wasn’t happy either.”
Back in Italy at the time, Francesca’s boyfriend Leo (now Dolce Neve’s third owner) was working as a programmer. His thoughts on his job were an echo of Marco and Francesca’s: “I wasn’t enjoying my job. I felt like a small gear in a big machine.”
The gelato shop idea came up in February 2012. By August, Marco was in Austin on reconnaissance. He liked what he found. “Austin has a strong food community, and people are so friendly and relaxed. People care about organic and natural food.”
How Is Dolce Neve Different?
Dolce Neve seems to be a perfect fit for Austin’s food culture. When I asked the three musketeers what sets their new shop apart from other gelato businesses in town, they pointed out four important differences:
- Dolce Neve makes their gelato from scratch. Not only is the gelato made on site, but the ingredients that go into the gelato are also prepared on site. For example, Dolce Neve begins with raw pistachios, roasting and grinding them themselves. Francesca summed it up: “We avoid using materials that have already been processed.” I was fascinated to learn that only 5-10% of gelato shops in Italy start from scratch like Dolce Neve. Way to set the bar high!
- Dolce Neve uses a unique freezing process for their gelato. Most shops (even in Italy) use a horizontal batch freezer, designed to make gelato more quickly. Push a few buttons and the process proceeds automatically. But Dolce Neve uses a vertical batch freezer imported from Italy, a technology that dates back to the 1960s. With the vertical machine, much more user involvement is required (the operator needs to know just when to stop the machine), but the gelato that comes out is superior.
- Dolce Neve does not have the traditional gelato display you’ve probably seen in every gelato shop you’ve ever stepped foot in. Instead of displaying gelato behind a glass case, the gelato at Dolce Neve is hidden under metal lids in pans. Stay open-minded about this! You may not know that when gelato comes in contact with air or light, it spoils much more quickly. Ever see ice on the top of gelato, or water at the bottom of the pan? These are both signs of old gelato. By using the “pozzetto” display, Dolce Neve keeps its gelato fresher for longer (9 days versus 5 days for uncovered gelato). Customers are genuinely welcomed to taste as many flavors as they like, to make sure they get the one they want.
- Dolce Neve doesn’t hide their creation process. This is an educational and entertaining aspect of Dolce Neve’s model, and it makes up for the different type of display! Customers can literally see the entire gelato creation process, including an up-close look at the shop’s vertical batch freezer. In fact, the day’s schedule is designed so that batches of gelato are finished in the afternoon. That way, you can come in and get a sample of fresh gelato, straight out of the freezer!
“Quality is our main priority,” Francesca told me. You’ll notice that the colors of Dolce Neve’s gelato may not be as bright as you’re used to. Again, that’s because the ingredients are all-natural and no dyes or artificial flavors are used.
Planning Your Visit
Wondering which gelato flavors to try first? Take a hint from the owners. Their favorite flavors are Hazelnut (Leo), Crema Pasticcera – cream with lemon zest (Francesca) and Dark Chocolate (Marco). For myself, the Roasted Pistachio was absolutely amazing. I also enjoyed Goat Cheese with Pecans!
In addition to gelato, you’ll also find fresh Italian cakes (the inside is gelato and whipped cream – the outside is the Italian version of sponge cake), gelato sandwiches, gelato on a stick, and espresso drinks. Everything is baked fresh on site. Francesca went to cooking school in Italy before training further at De’Coltelli. It’s fair to say you’ll be impressed with her baking skills!
The Grand Opening is January 10, 2014. As the business takes off, the hours of business will be 11 AM-10 PM Tuesday-Thursday, 11 AM-midnight Friday-Sunday, and closed on Monday. Keep an eye on Dolce Neve’s Facebook page for updates.
Would you give Dolce Nove a try, then come back and leave a comment with your opinion? I can’t wait to hear what you think!