While it may have changed hands a few times, Dolci bakery, located on the corner of Elmwood Avenue and Breckenridge, has always been known for its quaint interior and tasty desserts. In recent years, its gelato and sorbet offerings were of particular note, thanks to David Simpson, gelato master. After years in the restaurant business he saw the need for high-quality gelato and sorbet and worked diligently to develop techniques and recipes that resulted in a premium product. Over time, the business evolved in a variety of ways, and just a few months ago, Dolci’s second location was born.
On the reinvigorated West Side, across the street from the dynamic Sweet_ness 7 coffee shop and next door to the now flourishing Grant Street greenhouse, Dolci’s small gelateria is not only a place to stop and grab a scoop, but also Simpson’s gelato production facility.
“When we first moved in here,” Simpson tells me on a recent balmy afternoon, “there were only dirt floors.” After a lot of work and many bumps in the road, today the long and narrow space is crisp, clean and home to a long row of powerhouse freezers meant to store the hundreds of batches of gelato and sorbet made by the Dolci crew.
In recent months, while Simpson has been business owner, gelato maker, construction worker and more, he re-evaluated his business model to some extent. Those who wish to make gelato here in the U.S. (or anywhere, for that matter) have come to rely on chemical products imported from Italy. While Simpson’s product has never been one that’s integrity has been called into question, he crunched the numbers, did some taste testing and determined that it makes more sense–for a variety of reasons–to revert to making gelato the old-fashioned way.
It is safe to say that 95% of the frozen ice creams, gelatos, sorbets and frozen yogurts sold today contain emulsifiers, stabilizers and a whole series of chemicals that prevent crystallization, improve shelf life and address other frozen treat mishaps.
Simpson’s choice to return to using whole eggs, more cream and far fewer chemical ingredients means that his recipes had to be tweaked to avoid all of those issues and a few new ones. He begins to list the changes they’ve made “..adding the yolks means my vanilla isn’t perfectly white and the strawberry is a more muted pink, upping the fat content means that you also have to up the flavor, otherwise the flavor is lost.”
On my visit, the small Grant Street location was serving up gelato in flavors like Cinnamon Chocolate, Cherry, Strawberry, Caramel Sea Salt, Ginger Lime Curd and Lemon Curd. Also on tap was a Pear sorbet. “We’re already using and making a lot of these things in our daily bakery operation. We make lime curd, lemon curd and all of those things every day, so it makes sense that those great flavors would work here, too.”
Tyler Schmitt, Simpson’s right hand man at the Grant Street location, notes that many of the neighborhood’s residents don’t yet stop in for a scoop. “We think once we bring over pizza and pastries from our Elmwood Avenue location that we’ll see increased traffic,” Simpson remarked. “We’ve had Italian families tell us how authentic our product is here and when we’re out at festivals. One man told me it was the same as walking to the end of his street in Italy for some gelato.” Such responses bolster Simpson’s sense that his choices, which have come at a price, were the right ones.
So next time you’re out looking for a cold and luscious sweet treat on a steamy day, consider buzzing over to Grant Street’s newest business, Dolci. Supporting the folks who are staking claims in emerging neighborhoods is vital to their survival–and I can attest that a scoop of the Ginger Lime Curd is well worth the trip!
732 Elmwood Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14222
200 Grant Street
Buffalo, NY 14213
Inset Image: Dolci’s David SImpson (right) and Travis Schmitt (left)