Robb Duncan and Violeta Edelman of Dolcezza use fresh ingredients sourced from local purveyors for their gelato.
More than a decade later, Robb Duncan still remembers the first time he tasted gelato. It happened on a hot and humid night in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He had just finished enjoying a traditional backyard barbecue with the family of his then-future wife, Violeta Edelman, and he wanted something cold for dessert. She took him across the street to a small gelateria, where he ordered two scoops of dulce de leche and chocolate. “It blew me away,” he says. “I had never had anything like it. I immediately thought, ‘We should do this ourselves.’”
A year after they moved to DC in 2003, the duo opened its first Dolcezza gelateria in Georgetown; three more outposts (in Bethesda Row, Dupont Circle, and Fairfax) followed. To ensure success, the couple takes a yinyang approach to their business: He makes the gelato and she handles the operations. “I’m the dreamer,” says Duncan, a former software programmer. “And I’m the doer,” adds Edelman, who used to produce documentary films. In late summer Duncan and Edelman will unveil a massive 4,000-square-foot factory, tasting room, and coffee-cupping lab in a warehouse facility that formerly housed a wholesale flower market, next to Union Market and near Gallaudet University.
Working with seasonal fruits (think blackberries in the summer and Sicilian blood oranges in the winter months), fresh herbs, and local produce from area purveyors—including Tree and Leaf Farm in Unionville, Virginia, and Toigo Orchards from Shippensburg, Pennsylvania—Duncan hand-forges more than 300 flavors of gelato and sorbetto per year. (Gelato is creamy, has little air mixed in, and contains milk; sorbet is dairy free.) He offers inventive combinations like blackberries and cream, lemon and opal basil, and grapefruit paired with Campari. There are also savory selections such as Maldon sea salt and olive oil gelato, and new takes on classics, including Tahitian vanilla bean, dark Valrhona chocolate, and Mexican coffee.
“We all sample, and we’re all opinionated,” says Edelman, who eats gelato every day. “A successful flavor has to be balanced, creative, and use the best ingredients.”
When the new facility opens in August, customers will taste the couple’s treats in their purest form. Usually gelato is softened (called “tempering”) to give it body and stability, but it will be served untempered in the tasting room, freshly made. “It melts instantly when it hits your tongue,” Duncan says. “It’s a rush of flavor you won’t forget.”