Life is sweet at Dolce Frutti, which means "sweet fruits" in Italian, a premier gelato shop nestled in the Plaza shopping center in Tumon.
Owner Tina Roberto first scooped gelato while working at a shop Down Under while living in Australia. Ten years ago, she decided to bring the frozen dessert home to Guam.
"Ice cream's Italian cousin," is how she describes gelato. Make that ice cream's more sophisticated, and worldlier, cousin. Gelato, we find out during our visit to Dolce Frutti, is anything but generic.
Secret No. 1: Begin with the best of the best
"We use premium products. Our products come from Italy," says Roberto, showing us around her quaint and tidy shop after we push past the crowd gathered in front of a display case.
"The vanilla beans come from Madagascar. We don't use extract of anything; we use actual ingredients."
The classic Italian desert differs from ice cream in one major way.
"There is way more fat in ice cream than there is in gelato," Roberto says, "so you can have a little more gelato and not feel guilty about it."
Ice cream she explains, has air pumped into it to add volume. But not so for its more exotic relative.
"Gelato is really dense and very creamy, so it's really heavy. It's very different," says Roberto.
The kind you'll get at Dolce Fruitti is an authentic delight. It's mixed in-store with premium, top-shelf ingredients from Europe, then frozen and formed in a special gelato machine from Italy.
"This is like the Lamborghini of gelato machines," she says.
Secret No. 2: A gelato chef who loves her job
Yes, that's right. Dolce Frutti has a chef who creates each batch of gelato by hand.
"A lot of people don't know that we have an actual chef here. They think we ship it in. If they only knew we put a lot of heart into our product every day," says chef Jayla Del Valle.
When we ask Del Valle, who studied culinary and pastry arts in the Philippines, about her passion for creating the delicious frozen treat, it's clear her enthusiasm is as authentic as Dolce Frutti's product.
"I'm tearing up!" she says with a giggle. "What do I like about making gelato? It's something different."
She says, "I always tell the girls to think of themselves as the customer. If you are a customer, of course you want to be dazzled by the (display) case and how it tastes. You always have to keep that in mind. You want your customers to have the best experience."
Roberto and Del Valle share a symbiotic relationship, pumping out delicious pans of gelato, sometimes without needing a word between them.
"She and I work so well together. We don't even speak. I even know when to stick out my hand because she's going to hand me a dish – we just know," says Roberto.
Secret No. 3: One-of-a-kind recipes
Gelato recipes tend to be proprietary, says Roberto: "Every chef has their own recipe."
"The recipe comes about by fat percentage to how much is liquid, how much is milk, how much is solid, so we have a final target we need to hit and we can play with everything inside of that," she says.
Roberto calls creating gelato recipes more of a science, which results in flavor at the forefront.
"The flavor comes through from the moment you put it into your mouth before you swallow. Whereas ice cream – because it's higher in fat – before you taste the flavor the fat has to warm up in your mouth and disappear. That's why when you are eating ice cream you don't quite get that 'wow' effect right away."
With 17 flavors on display daily, one of them is sure to wow you.
With a nod to a popular chocolate candy, Dolce Frutti's Ferrero Rocher – a hazelnut and chocolate mix – tops as the shop's most requested flavor.
Another must-try is the second runner-up for most popular: the Wild Berry Yogurt gelato with fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.
If you are feeling more adventurous, ask for a taste of the Cherry Mania, a flavorful mix of amaretto cherries and chocolate chips. Or switch gears and refresh your palate with the Mango or Passion Fruit, or the simultaneously tangy, tart and sweet Lime Sorbet.
Secret No. 4: Share the love
As much work as it is to create a one-of-a-kind Italian dessert day after day, Roberto and her crew take time to enjoy the fruits of their labor and share the joy with their customers, some of whom have never tried gelato.
"We just love it. The minute someone tastes it and says, 'It's so good,' we are patting ourselves on the back," Roberto says.
Customers, too, can get in on the fun with what Roberto calls an "interactive dessert," the Affogato, an Italian coffee-based dessert.
Start with three creamy scoops of vanilla gelato and pour a high-quality espresso over it – add as much or as little as you like – and the result is a delicious adult take on the root beer float.
"It's simple and that's why it's really good," says Roberto.
Simple and sweet. Whether you live on Guam or are here for a visit, a trip to Dolce Frutti is just the thing to elevate a local stroll into a cosmopolitan experience.