Hotel Gelato is The Eglinton Way’s busiest lunch spot. This February marks Hotel Gelato’s 7-year anniversary in the area. Local residents all have a favorite hot drink, meal, and dessert here. Dan Hofman, co-owner and founder, sat down with Sheliza Esmail from the The Eglinton Way BIA this week to talk about the story behind the business over cupcakes and gelato.
The Eglinton Way: What inspired you to open Hotel Gelato in 2010?
Dan: We were inspired by a love of ice-cream. Christopher and I both have a background in hospitality and I had done some training in nutrition, which inspired our philosophy of creating “accessible desserts”. Our menu options cater to people who have gluten-free, lactose-free, vegan, and vegetarian diets. All of our soups are vegan. Nut-free is the only one we are not able to offer because so many gelato recipes call for nuts.
We live in a health-conscious generation and the residents in this area are very conscientious. We cater to that.
The Eglinton Way: Which menu items are your top sellers?
Dan: In the gelato case right now, salted caramel and dark chocolate. They’re the popular winter flavours. In the summer, the fruity and lighter flavours tend to be more popular.
The lemon ricotta pancakes on our brunch menu are also a favorite, and recently our baked eggs breakfast has become a popular choice among our customers.
The Eglinton Way: I tried your birthday cake gelato last week. It was delicious! What’s your favorite food item on the menu?
Dan: My favorite gelato right now is mochaccino brownie. It’s gluten free too. Our brownies, which are my favorite dessert, are made in-house and used in the mochaccino brownie gelato. From the menu, I really enjoy the classic eggs benedict.
The Eglinton Way: The breakfast sandwich with spinach is one of my morning favorites. What’s a typical day at Hotel Gelato like for you?
Dan: Usually, I arrive in time for the lunch service. I work front of house during the service and get the chance to connect with our customers. Then I work on ordering supplies and marketing for Hotel Gelato. Our marketing plans are always different depending on the season. As soon as the weather gets warmer, people start thinking about ice-cream more.
We also regularly make changes to our menu. The food combinations are well thought through and we try to keep it innovative.
The Eglinton Way: What makes Hotel Gelato unique?
Dan: We are very hospitality minded and committed to making the customer experience special. The ambiance in here is stylish and practical and intended to mimic a hotel lobby experience. The clocks on the wall are from different cities where there’s only one hotel – there’s only one Hotel Fulbari and there’s only one Hotel Gelato.
The Eglinton Way: That’s a smart concept. Do you have any favorite pieces in here?
Dan: The portraits of Napoleon behind the gelato case. Christopher and I found them at auction before we opened. The candelabrum above the mantle is also one of my favorites.
The Eglinton Way: It’s a stunning piece. Last question, what are your future plans for Hotel Gelato?
Dan: We’ve thought about growing the business into another location or creating a retail product. Most importantly we want to continue to evolve – everything from our ice cream flavors to the store changes from time to time and we like to stay on trend.
Dan packs me a Red Velvet cupcake to go – a perfect dessert for Valentine’s week.