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Ambitious gelato master thinks outside the cup and cone

Plans include gelato lab, international training school, pizza, cocktails, world domination

Passersby on the seawall have been waiting all summer for the second Bella Gelateria to open.

The new location started serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, including Napolitano pizzas and “gelatinis,” on Thursday.

So why didn’t the contemporary Italian restaurant open sooner?

“At my level of being a world champion, everything has to be perfect,” said gelato master and owner James Coleridge. “This is called James’s world and in James’s world, it has to be perfect.”

This second venture marks another step towards the artisanal gelato maker’s quest for world domination.

Coleridge hopes to see 10 Bella Gelateria locations on three continents within the next five years. He’s signed a lease in West Vancouver, hopes to open Bella Gelateria shops near Main Street and in Kitsilano, has his eye on Los Angeles and is negotiating with business people in Singapore.

The 80-seat Bella Gelateria Yaletown on Marinaside Crescent, near the foot of Davie Street, will serve gelatinis, or gelato martinis. Variations include a “Wild Evita” (salted caramel gelato with scotch), the “EGT Negroni” (earl grey tea gelato with gin, Campari, Italian vermouth and orange peel oils) and the “Black Sesame Chai” with bourbon, chai spices and black sesame gelato. Bella Gelateria has also partnered with Soirette Macarons and Tea on East Pender Street to make macaron-gelato sandwiches.

The Yaletown location also includes a gelato lab that’s two-and-a-half times larger than the teensy kitchen at the corner of the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Coal Harbour so interns from the Carpigiani Gelato University in Italy can make gelato, gelato popsicles and gelato sandwiches.

Coleridge, a former high-altitude climber for National Geographic and a former longtime White Rock city councillor, trained at the Italian Culinary Institute and the gelato university in 2009.

“It seemed like a natural transition to go from glaciers to frozen desserts,” Coleridge quipped.

He went to Italy because he wanted to study with the best.

Coleridge and his protegé, Salvatore Boccarossa, won first place in the Gelato World Tour North America this year; Coleridge won International Gelato Master of the Year at the International Fair of Artisan Gelato and the People’s Choice Award and Technical Jury Award at the Florence Italy Gelato Festival in 2012.

“I became the first non-Italian to be designated as a gelato pioneer [by the Carpigiani company]. But they also gave me the title of ‘the father,’ for all gelato pioneers worldwide,” Coleridge said, his eyes growing red.

“Then it became it wasn’t about me; it was about the industry,” he continued, wiping his eyes. “So then I had a greater responsibility to the world. I had a greater responsibility then to myself.”

Now Coleridge and the university choose the cream of the class to intern at Bella Gelateria, the only offshoot of the Italian university in North America. He’s overseen students from Italy, Chile and Colombia and hopes to groom gelato masters for his future locations.

Even in Italy, his professors taught him to make gelato with pre-packaged powders, but Coleridge challenged them to make gelato the less industrialized way with local ingredients.

That artisanal approach has made his gelato even more popular than he anticipated in Vancouver, “the most highly competitive gelato market in North America.”

“Why so popular? We use real vanilla beans,” he said. “People are tasting what a real vanilla tastes like when they taste ours.”

Now Coleridge is rappelling away from the idea of gelato as something that’s served in cones and cups. He’s trademarked the “Juicetto” that combines cold-pressed juice, say of spinach, kale and ginger, with creamy gelato and is experimenting with recipes at the Coal Harbour location.

“I don’t fit in,” Coleridge said. “I stand out.”

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