On the Spot: Robb Duncan, owner and gelato maker, Dolcezza

December 1, 2013
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Robb Duncan got hooked on Argentine-style gelato in 1998 in Buenos Aires — wife Violeta Edelman’s hometown. In 2004, the couple opened Dolcezza in Georgetown to get Washingtonians hooked on it, too. It worked: Since then, Dolcezza has launched three more shops, in Dupont Circle, Bethesda and Fairfax. Now Duncan is opening a visitor-friendly factory (550 Penn St. NE) near Union Market. Starting Dec. 7, you can taste gelato fresh off the line.

Why were you drawn to Argentine-style gelato?
It just blew me away. I’d had [gelato] in Italy but never like it was in Buenos Aires.

 What made it so amazing compared with Italian gelato?
It’s essentially Italian gelato, but there’s something about it. I really can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I’ve heard it from so many people: “Man, the gelato down in Argentina is better than it is in Italy.”

Maybe because you were in love with someone from Buenos Aires?
Oh, definitely. That obviously had an effect. But a testament to whether it was true or not is 12 years later, we’re still doing it. We still think it’s good.

Why did you open Dolcezza in D.C.?
We came to D.C., where I was doing a project with the government, in 2002, and we were like, “This is a place that would get it, because it’s international.” In 2004, we opened our doors completely without a clue of what we were doing. We just kind of jumped in and figured we’d figure it out.

How do you come up with your flavor combinations?
“Late nights and lots of dope” is what I like to say. [Laughs.] All those flavors are not out of nowhere. When you really look into it, those are classic combinations: Meyer lemon with vodka, that’s like limoncello; yellow peach/bourbon, you can go find bourbon-poached peaches everywhere in the South; lime/cilantro, you go to any Asian or Latin cuisine, and that’s in many dishes. I don’t like when I go into a place and it has, like, mango/strawberry/banana. There’s no rhyme or reason to a lot of combinations.

Why should people go to the factory instead of one of your shops?
You can walk into the factory off the street and whatever we’re making right then is what you can eat. That’s the best you can get: when the gelato comes out fresh from the machine. The menu will change hour by hour depending on what we’re making. It’s kind of like a “come to mecca” kind of thing.

Beth Marlowe is a senior editor at Washington Post Express. She has written for The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Bloomberg Television and other publications.
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