Asked to name one enduring business on Bayview, chances are many Leasiders will answer Hollywood Gelato. That’s because this gelateria has been satisfying palates for more than two decades and is often voted Toronto’s finest gelato emporium.
The man behind the creamy gelato is Dino Carella, who got his start making and selling gelato in Bari, Italy, as an 18-year-old. At 33, he came to Canada, looking for a new start. He scouted a number of neighbourhoods, but felt that the Bayview strip was home to businesses that would be compatible with his, and he loved the overall feel of this neighbourhood.
Gelato and ice cream are related products. Ice cream has higher fat from cream, is “airier” because of its fast churning, and is kept at a low temperature. Gelato uses milk to start, and its churner moves more slowly than an ice cream machine and thus makes a product that’s softer and more dense.
Dino and his cousin Enzo are the main staffers, along with a manager and part-timers as needed. Some come first as students and stay on through university breaks. A perk of working at Hollywood Gelato is the obvious: you can eat all the gelato you want! Dino encourages that, as it helps his employees to better help customers with those difficult three-scoop choices.
Why the name Hollywood? Dino’s original thought was to name the various flavours after movies he loved or particular stars, but a friend told him he would have serious copyright difficulties if he went that route. But since he had already fallen in love with the name Hollywood Gelato, the name stayed, even without the movie star flavour names, and he’s still here 21 years later.
They may not be movie stars, but prominent food critics have made a point of visiting and extolling his tasty delights. James Chatto, for instance, kept asking why the mango gelato tasted more real than an actual mango. All down to Dino’s wise choice of prime ingredients.
Dino makes a point of buying the best ingredients he can find, whether the dairy from his milk supplier, or various fresh fruits from the Ontario Food Terminal, Valrhona chocolate from France, or Bronte pistachios.
The Bronte pistachios are a story in themselves. They come from the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy, in the town of Bronte. They are referred to as “green gold” and are Dino’s most expensive ingredient.
Dino starts work at 6 a.m. and often works until after 2 p.m. Gelato doesn’t have a long shelf life, so he’s continually replenishing stock. He has about 18 flavours on tap all the time, including top-selling Ferrero Rocher, cookies and cream, chocolate, and of course, pistachio. He usually has about four rotating flavours. Some come about because of customer feedback and others that he thinks will please his customers. He tries particularly hard to please the kids.
He’s dedicated to making and selling a product that is affordable and tastes great. To do that, he says “I need to buy smart, keep an eye on competitors, and be always looking for that superior taste to keep my customers coming back.” Regular customers include the local schools and churches with their various fairs and fundraisers, asking for donations. Dino says “it’s an honour to donate.” He jokes that “my worst day is my day off.” This may not be strictly true, but Dino certainly still enjoys being part of the Leaside community – and any day is a good one to show up at Hollywood Gelato.