Even though it’s the end of summer business is just heating up for Chris Simonetti and his Thorold-based mobile gelateria, Anita Gelato. Says Simonetti, “We go all year round. Even in the dead of winter in the past year, you had people that were ordering gelato and I was delivering in a snowstorm.”
When Simonetti thought up the concept of Anita Gelato back in 2018 he envisioned it as a mobile gelato shop customers could hire for events but Covid-19 had other plans. Says Simonetti, “Once the pandemic hit and everything got shut down we decided really quickly we had to do something. So then we pivoted to the home delivery (which) I didn’t consider at the time that I started.”
Simonetti’s infatuation with gelato started more than a decade ago when he took a job working at a gelato shop. Says Simonetti, “I started working for a gentleman in Niagara Falls back in 2009 and he introduced me to gelato. I kind of fell into the job starting in deliveries and as time went on I started helping him out. That really woke something up that I never really thought I would come close to.”
Simonetti says making gelato makes him feel closer to his culture, and his family who all hail from Italy. As he got more invested in gelato he enrolled in a course at the Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna, Italy in 2018. Says Simonetti, “ It was a really eye opening experience because you meet these people for who this is their life, who toe the line between artist and scientist and it made me energized to explore the whole idea more. It was a great awakening and that kind of brought me to who I am now.”
When Simonetti got back from Italy he started work on Anita Gelato, which he named after his mother Anita. “My mom has just always been a source of inspiration for me. She’s always been the hardest working person I know and what better way to honour her than to name the business after her, and the pun doesn’t hurt either.”
But it wasn’t until Covid-19 hit and Simonetti lost his second job that Anita Gelato really took off. Says Simonetti, “It really allowed me to find the time to explore this idea. I had the basic concept and we had done some events in the summer prior but it just allowed me the ability to really immerse myself into it and try to make it work.”
Simonetti says making gelato is a delicate process. "I take something like the butter tart for instance and go, ‘Okay, you have pastry, you have maple, you have pecans,' and you try to incorporate all of those flavours into the gelato and also make sure that nothing overpowers anything else. It’s really a fine balance, it’s a dance sometimes."
Throughout the pandemic Anita Gelato has been taking on several creative partnerships with other businesses, like CAA Niagara and Boxed Cookies. Says Simonetti, “Sometimes the thing that really inspires me is talking to local creators of any kind. There are so many people that I have gotten to work with over the last 18 months that have really given me a lot of great ideas and have allowed me the ability to utilize their products to create something new. That has increased my desire to push the envelope farther.”
So how far does Simonetti want Anita Gelato to go? “I like the mobile aspect but I would also like to be able to have a fixed location. That’s going to be the future,” says Simonetti.
“I love Thorold, I love this community, I love the tradition and the history. I would love to stay here if I can and hopefully plant a flag in the ground and say, ‘This is Anita Gelato and we’re from Thorold.’”
What is certain is that Simonetti has found new meaning in his life through Anita Gelato. Says Simonetti, “To have this kind of connection to Italy and to have this kind of traditional job that really connects you to your culture, that means a lot. Everyone should keep their traditions alive because it’s where you come from. And if you don’t know where you come from, you’re never gonna know where you’re going.”