The goodfellas in Dennis call gelato the new American ice cream. Dating back to fifteenth century Rome, this cool, creamy, concoction is a handmade treat certain to temper the summer heat.
Lauded by The Boston Globe as the Picasso of pastry, Gregory Chase of GoodFellas Gelateria attributes the popularity of authentic Italian gelato on Route 6A in Dennis to a larger food awakening. “Americans have had all the abundance of food and no idea what to do with it. We are building it,” he said.
As the American food tradition evolves to accommodate gelato, Chase is busy behind the scenes at GoodFellas concocting flavors from the traditional (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry) to the inventive (peppermint patty, pomegranate peach, birthday cake).
Leading the way through the brightly-lit cheerful interior of the shop to the kitchen, Chase shows me the large Italian gelato mixer he uses, appropriately called Bravo.
Chase learned to cook from Dean & Deluca and James Beard. He has cooked for Julia Child, is the former Hamersley’s Bistro pastry chef, and has written two cookbooks. His time as a pastry chef in Parma, Italy, definitely informs his current work. He is incredibly generous and wants people to try new things.
“It’s an Italian tradition to let people try the flavor before buying, and I’m bringing that here. It’s visual, people notice and comment on the presentation,” he said. The 20-plus flavors gracing his display case are indeed beautiful, colorful and tempting. The first taste is with the eye, the second is from a small spoonful Chase is happy to hand over himself.
His ingredients, like the mixer, are imported from Italy. I watch as he applies a stick emulsion blender to a large bowl containing baking chocolate in chip form, cocoa, a rich chocolate paste, milk, cream, and sugar. The bowl starts to rock and I grab the side so it doesn’t spill. Chase tells me gelato has half the fat and sugar of ice cream, and is not served as cold, so it doesn’t freeze your taste buds, which accounts for the intensity of its flavor.
He pours the mixture into the top compartment of the Bravo, and surprises me by explaining it will first cook to a high temperature as ice cream does in the custard phase, even though there are no egg yolks involved. In several minutes the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Chase is following a creative process that sometimes results in the birth of completely new flavors, and the exuberance of his personality is reflected in his creativity. The birthday cake gelato flavor is the pale blue of festive frosting and weighs in as his sweetest offering. One taste is enough to bring you back, madeleine-like, to every childhood party you ever attended. Another of his inventions involves adding pieces of apple pie to cinnamon gelato to create an apple pie flavor. “That’s the fun of it,” he said.
He explained that while gelato can last several months in the deep freeze, it has a shelf life of about two days in his warmer display case. He suspects that when Americans complain gelato has an unappealing texture, it is due to the fact it has been sitting for too long in the case. This spring GoodFellas donated its leftover gelato to charity, although they plan to sell out of it through the summer boom as they enter their second year of business.
The cooking phase of gelato making is followed by the chilling phase as the mixture moves to a rotating chamber in the bottom of the Bravo. Gelato means frozen, and a few minutes later, the finished product comes out of the bottom spout, into a cappuccino cup, ready to taste. Chase hands it to me. The chocolate is intense and refreshing, light and rich all at once. Half of the mixture will be left plain, and half will be mixed with other ingredients such as nuts to create a different flavor. “Now the Italians are coming to us to learn to make gelato,” he quips in jest.
The name GoodFellas refers to the gelateria’s owners: Dennis realtors Paul Sullivan and Chuck Deluga of the real estate company Paul W. Sullivan and Associates, located just across the street from the shop.
While I’m sampling the chocolate gelato, Paul Sullivan happens to walk into the kitchen. “Five years ago when I was in South Beach, I went into a little alley and found a young guy opening up a gelato shop. I talked to him and found it might be profitable to sell gelato. When this space opened up, I thought, why not give it a try,” he said.
I talked to Mary Ellen Greenburg, who recently returned to Cape Cod and also works at GoodFellas. “Dennis Village was sleepy, but now it’s waking up,” she said. Customers can sit inside, but she is also excited about the patio. “There is pizza outside, and we want to find musicians and mimes to entertain in the afternoons,” she said.
Greenburg described the range of offerings from Chase’s kitchen, including gelato pies and cakes, ice cream sandwiches, and something I found completely novel: the Belgian waffle sundae, in which a warm homemade waffle is topped with gelato and either chocolate or caramel sauce. “This is meant to eaten with friends,” Greenburg said. I imagine it as an innovative sort of banana split, shy the bananas and having gained a waffle.
GoodFellas also serves primo Italian espresso Illy Cafe, and Greenburg handed me an affogato, the Italian dessert combining an espresso shot with vanilla gelato. To the American palate the affogato is coffee ice cream in its rawest form, an eye-opening after-dinner treat or a fitting way to end a visit to GoodFellas.
766 Main Street, Dennis
Open 11 am-10 pm seven days a week in summer