By Paula Roy –
Hintonburg’s culinary landscape gained another star with the opening last month of the Stella Luna Gelato Café on Wellington near Rosemount. It’s the second location for the six-year-old company. Master Gelato Chef Tammy Giuliani, her husband Alessandro and their three grown children all work in the family business. Stella Luna’s gelato is already well known throughout the region thanks to their Old Ottawa South cafe and mobile cart. Business has been brisk since the doors opened to the newest location, in a space Tammy describes as the more sophisticated urbanite cousin to the Bank Street shop’s village piazza atmosphere.
Tammy is the Ottawa-born graduate of Carpigiani Gelato University in Italy. She says that she and Alessandro bonded over gelato when they first met in Italy years ago. “He didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Italian, so gelato became our simple shared pleasure and how we first communicated. We returned to Ottawa to raise our family, then years later, I went back to Italy for training and an apprenticeship.”
Gelato is a tricky product to make. It differs from ice cream in that it is lower in fat and denser in texture, plus it is traditionally served at a warmer temperature. All of these factors affect the taste buds quite differently, meaning the nuances of flavour are easier to discern and the calibre of the product more apparent.
“At Stella Luna, we are going back to a time when quality preceded quantity; where people take care to create a meticulously crafted product,” explains Tammy. “Every batch is made by hand using premium ingredients, and that is a harder way to do things, but the taste is unparalleled compared to the packaged mixes some companies use.”
Stella Luna’s gelato is actually now world famous, thanks to Tammy’s bronze medal at the prestigious Gelato World Tour in Chicago last year, earned with a creation composed of dark chocolate, organic bourbon, maple syrup and pecans. Another variety that has garnered a lot of attention is one favoured by very pregnant women as it’s rumoured to hasten labour.
“The main ingredients are Mayan chocolate, hot chili peppers and cinnamon, but I also like to say there’s a little magic sprinkled in there as well,” notes Tammy with a smile.
There’s more than just 24 flavours of gelato on the menu at Stella Luna – the cheerful shop also offers waffles, crepes, gourmet panini, eclectic salads and soups. Once they’re fully settled in Hintonburg, they’re planning to add a wine bar with a selection of craft beer. They’ll also serve spuntini – tasty little snacks which are the Italian version of tapas.
With a full production facility onsite and a staff of 25, Stella Luna’s Hintonburg location is a busy place. “We like to make our gelato at both locations because it helps keep those in the kitchen connected to customers,” says Tammy. “Plus, depending upon demand, the flavours sometimes change as many as three times per day so we need to keep production going constantly.”
Although Tammy says expansion had not been high on her list of priorities, Alessandro was eager. “He’s the dreamer and I kept resisting, but the pieces of the puzzle kept falling into place and I couldn’t resist any longer. This space is perfect for us and we love this area. It’s so community minded and family oriented, with well-travelled residents and a sense of vibrancy about it.”
It seems like a stroke of flavourful fortune that Hintonburg will be home to two of the city’s top purveyors of frozen treats when the Merry Dairy opens its shop this summer just a few blocks away from Stella Luna. “I don’t regard Marlene, Merry Dairy’s owner, as a competitor,” says Tammy. “We are both successful entrepreneurs and our products are very different. I like to think of us as having our arms linked, marching forward to teach people about the joy of artisan products.”