Local gelato chain Dolci Gelati hopes to capture more customers this spring by introducing hot food alongside its cold scoops.
Starting Monday, April 1, at its flagship Shaw location (1420 8th Street NW), the gelato shop will sell panini and pizzas featuring mozzarella made in-house. The gelato shop will also begin offering wine and beer all day. Dolci will shed its winter schedule next month, opening daily at noon instead of 4 p.m.
The changes will also be incorporated at Dolci Gelati’s first permanent kiosk in the Smithsonian Zoo, which opens this Saturday.
Naples-born chef Gianluigi Dellaccio founded the D.C. brand in 2006, initially acting as a gelato supplier to restaurants, specialty supermarkets, and catering operation. Its brick-and-mortar in the City Market at O building opened in 2014. The liquor license it obtained in 2017 hasn’t been utilized until now.
“I’ve been waiting for the Shaw neighborhood to pick up,” he tells Eater. “Hopefully with the new developments and restaurants opening, people will be interested to come in to get a bite.”
Dolci’s new pizzas and panini will incorporate smoked scamorza cheese, pesto, tomatoes, and cold cuts. There will also be caprese salads topped with prosciutto. The menu is still a work in progress.
For one hour each day, an Italian-style aperitivo buffet will be set up in one corner of the shop, featuring a pared down selection of savory snacks — think small slices of pizza — alongside paper plates and napkins.
Meanwhile, the zoo kiosk near the Reptile Discovery Center has two windows: one dedicated to gelato and another slinging whole pizzas and salads. Sbarro corners the by-the-slice market at the zoo, Dellaccio says, so he’s going with two types of pies.
On the sweets side, he’ll serve a vegan gelato flavor (likely vanilla). There’s also a chocolate chip gelato cookie sandwich and a sundae with whip cream and toppings. The zoo’s menu will include six gelato flavors and three sorbets. The kiosk’s hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Dolci Gelati also operates a counter inside Roscoe’s Neapolitan Pizza in Takoma Park — where Dellaccio has gotten “really great feedback” from vegan customers. The brand has four carts at Nationals Park and a setup inside the President’s Club behind home plate. This season marks the first time all vendors at the ballpark are going green by ensuring all packaging is compostable.
“[The cups] cost double, but it’s a great thing we do for the environment,” Dellaccio says.
He’s also importing compostable cups to the zoo by the end of the year, becoming one of the first vendors to do so.
Spring also marks the start of cherry blossom flavors: green tea with black sesame seeds, Asian pear, and Thai coconut.
Sake will make its way into Dolci’s yuzu sorbet at this year’s Sakura Matsuri — a Japanese street festival slated for Saturday, April 13, on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The flavor will also be available the following day at the Sakura Sunday event at National Harbor.