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Restaurants / Openings

New Dessert Shop Brings an Italian Touch to The Heights

This is No Tourist’s Gelato

BY // 04.17.17

If River Oaks District gelato shop Amorino‘s lengthy lines are any indication of Houstonians’ growing love affair with ice cream’s Italian cousin, then Austin import Dolce Neve‘s recent arrival in The Heights is right on time — bringing one of the most authentic artisanal gelateria experiences to the Bayou City.

“Today in most places, even Italy, 90 percent of the gelato shops aren’t really artisanal,” Dolce Neve co-owner and Italian native Marco Silvestrini says. “They use pre-made mixes, so you really have to know where to go. One way you can decipher the quality is by looking at the display.

“In most tourist places (like Florence), they have open gelato display cases, and that’s a very bad indication of the quality of the gelato.”

Silvestrini alongside sister Francesca and her fiance Leopoldo Ferrarese, birthed their award-winning gelato shop in Austin in January 2014. Inundated with the stress of corporate America, the trio searched for a way out. Their savior was gelato.

“Me and my family wanted to do something we were passionate about, even if it didn’t mean being paid more, as long as it made us happy,” Silvestrini tells PaperCity. “So we settled on a gelato shop. I was in New York at the time, and I knew I didn’t want to open anything there, it was too risky.

“Some of my friends had been telling me about this super cool place in Texas called Austin, where people really like to eat out. So I went there. I fell in love with the place, and we decided to move and open [Dolce Neve] there.”

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Silvistrini’s sister Francesca packed her bags for culinary school in Italy, where she mastered the art of gelato making before honing her craft at one of the top five gelato shops in Italy. Upon her arrival back to the States, Dolce Neve was officially born in Austin’s 78704 District.

“Me and my family wanted to do something we were passionate about, even if it didn’t mean being paid more.”

Now merely three years after their successful launch, Silvestrini and crew have infiltrated an entirely new market with this first-ever Houston location.

The newly opened shop at 4721 North Main Street neighbors recently shuttered Thai street food restaurant Foreign Correspondents (which will soon become Hughie’s Tavern & Vietnamese Grille) as well as coffee and donut mecca Morningstar, which is owned by Silvestrini’s friend and longtime Dolce Neve fan David Buehrer, who was the driving force behind the shop’s Houston move.

“Sometimes it is a matter of capturing the right opportunity. We’d been looking for a second spot in Austin, and just couldn’t find the right one. Then David suggested this spot, and it all just lined up. It just happened,” Silvestrini says.

Houstonians can now sample some of the world’s best gelato sans the flight to Italy. You’ll find traditional Italian classics such as organic pistachio, stracciatella, and their signature Crema Dolce Neve (custard with lemon zest), as well as more whimsical flavor options including coconut milk and blueberry jam; strawberries and buttermilk; earl gray tea; goat cheese and pecan; and malted milk with milk chocolate chips.

As Silvestrini puts it, Dolce Neve is part of a “new wave of Italian gelato makers” who are willing to push the envelope and experiment with new flavor combinations.

“We always knew we wanted to do some traditional flavors because those are the elements of the Italian gelato tradition,” Silvestrini says. “I feel like you can’t be an authentic gelato shop if you aren’t able to nail the classics. At the same time, if you don’t experiment things get boring.”

Try Dolce Neve’s signature gelato and sorbet in a cup or cone, or enjoy the creamy confections in a gelato sandwich or pop.

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