WELLFLEET — “It’s nut day,” says Sandy Valli. I look around, confused. The shop, Gelato Joy, is busy for sure, but not particularly crazy. It is 4 p.m. on the Tuesday after Labor Day.
Passing me a dish of pistachio and hazelnut gelato, Valli explains that they make nut-flavored versions on Tuesdays (though they may switch to Thursdays). Die-hard gelato fans — nuts, you might call them — line up for it.
The pistachio is made with pistachio butter, none of that fake green stuff. Though Valli has never been to Italy, she manages, in her hazelnut gelato, to perfectly evoke the nocciola I once had in Venice.
Gelato Joy is tucked behind the Sickday Surf Shop on Main Street. It is owned by Valli and her husband, Leif, whose older brother Olaf owns Sickday.
“I’ve lived in Wellfleet since I was 10, so almost 40 years. My dad was at the Air Force base,” says Valli, pointing toward Truro. “He was one of the last people off the base. He had to help close it down.”
Sandy and Leif had talked about opening a shop someday. But, she says, “We weren’t going to do this for another 10 years.” Then Leif’s father, Charley, died in December. “He was our rival, opponent, and inspiration in the family ice cream competitions,” she says. The space was available. They decided now was the time.
Then Covid hit. They managed to open in July, only a couple of months behind schedule, though too late for the Independent’s July 2 ice cream survey. Gelato Joy will be open until Columbus Day weekend, with pop-ups planned for around the holidays.
Gelato was Leif’s idea. Different — so, a good fit for Wellfleet. Gelato is churned slowly, to incorporate less air than ice cream, so it is dense and seems rich. Surprisingly, it has less milk fat than ice cream does.
“I had a few people think it was too weird for Wellfleet,” says Sandy. The naysayers, she thinks, don’t really understand Wellfleet. “We had a four-year-old order pistachio. Kids are ordering lemon ginger sorbet.”
Also on the menu, which changes seasonally, are coffee, salted caramel, blueberry, and raspberry gelato, as well as mango and blueberry sorbets. They use the company PreGel, with headquarters in Reggio Emilia, Italy, for some of their flavorings, but also use their own ingredients, including fresh fruits.
In addition to frozen treats, they sell coffee and bagels in the morning, as well as bottles of the fresh Thatcher Farm milk from Milton that they use in their gelato. “It does make a difference,” says Valli.
Gelato Joy is a family affair. The older kids help out in the shop, and the younger ones will, too, once Covid is not a factor. Leif and the Vallis’ oldest son, Tait, did much of the construction, and their niece Nicole designed the logo.
The name was easy, says Valli. “We really wanted it to be a happy place.”
Gelato Joy is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.