Espresso and Gelato – a Match Made in Dairy Heaven

My father, nearing retirement age, is a bit like a young boy when it comes to frozen treats in the summer; when he visits not a day goes by that we don’t have ice cream. So last summer when we were out and about and he requested ice cream but all I wanted was a cappuccino, I naturally took him to Dolcezza: the best of both worlds.

Photo Mar 10, 2 33 16 PM
Something for every palette

I’m not sure I was fully aware of this relationship between gelato and coffee but it makes sense considering how seriously Italians take both (though interesting that Dolcezza is modeled after an Argentinian café). Recently at Pitango Gelato I asked store manager John Lim how he thought the two came to have such a marriage and he pondered that it was a natural evolution considering the pairing of milk and coffee in cappuccinos and lattes – gelato is made of milk after all.

Gelato has a lower fat content than ice cream, and is stored at a higher temperature to make for easy scooping (and consumption)! Places like Dolcezza and Dolci Gelati experiment with different flavor combinations (adjusted to what is in season – think lime-cilantro and banana-bread- pudding, respectively) and often only have specific selections available for a few days before rolling out new ones (check their social media often for what they are serving). The folks at Pitango Gelato prefer pure flavors and few ingredients (like chocolate noir or hazelnut). There are merits to both philosophies!

Apparently one critique the gelato establishments in DC often hear are the high prices of their offerings (admittedly I’ve gasped aloud on social media about the cost of a small cup of gelato) but now that I’m more informed (ahem) I humbly revise my exasperation. At Pitango Gelato they explain that there are no preservatives and stabilizers in the frozen goodness. All three cafes mentioned in this post pride themselves on sourcing the best ingredients – from their local dairy to their seasonal fruits (and sometimes imported specialties), I understand that they are choosing to provide only the highest quality.

Whether you agree with this marriage or not, it is apparent that the idea to cater to different audiences was a good one (all the cafes covered have an expansive wholesale business), and it keeps things covered through all seasons. In May when we were going through a cold spell, I posted on Instagram that I had been looking forward to some gelato but walked into Dolci Gelati for a cappuccino instead!

Pitango Gelato’s John Lim also joked that his latte art skills were a bit rusty as Peregrine was serving most of Eastern Market’s coffee needs, but come fall and winter he’d be back in full swing again (for the record, his latte art was still lovely). The Pitango at Eastern Market serves Vigilante Coffee bringing in many coffee enthusiasts who are loyal to the local roaster (Dolcezza serves Stumptown, Dolci Gelati Italian coffee, most other Pitango Gelato locations serve Counter Culture Coffee).

Dolcezza and Dolci Gelati serve manual brew specialty coffee, but both started as gelato producers. While doing my homework I have found this to be the case for other gelato/espresso establishments. The owner of Dolci Gelati actually has an impressive resume as a pastry chef, and still experiments with a variety of baked goods for all their cafes. Dolcezza and Pitango have also branched out to more versatile storefronts, Dolcezza’s Mom + Pop in the Mosaic District (Fairfax) and Pitango’s Bakery + Café on the waterfront in Baltimore (the outdoor seating has great harbor views). Based on my mouthwatering research, I am looking forward to visiting both!

What do you think about the natural progression from gelato to coffee? Legit or random?

Stay grounded,



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