La Dolce Vita in Dennis

A quintessential Cape Cod corner showcases new European flair with a gelato shop, an Italian delicacies store and a charming piazza.

By Lisa Cavanaugh
Photography by Julia Cumes

If you’ve been lucky enough to cook dinner for Julia Child at one point in your life, what could top that?

For gelato and pastry chef Greg Case, it might just be working at GoodFellas Gelateria in Dennis Village. “It’s very creative work and the combinations of flavors are endless,” says Case.

“I made Julia peach pie with basil gelato,” he reminisces, “and she loved it!” Child encouraged him to get an apprenticeship to learn his craft. He started at Dean & Deluca and went on to become a successful pastry chef for 35 years in both New York City and Boston before relocating to the Cape. When GoodFellas opened in early 2015, Case was thrilled to take on the chef position. “Most people don’t know that gelato has far less fat and less air is churned into it than regular ice cream—so it’s both creamy and good for you. It’s a happy food. Everyone wants to eat gelato.”

A dozen or so decadent-looking options swirled in metal tubs are on display inside a chilled glass case. Friendly workers offer tastings and then scoop the velvety frozen treat into cups and cones. The most popular gelato flavor seems to be salted caramel, but chocolate cherry amaretto and a shocking blue birthday cake flavors are also customer favorites. The space is bright and light, with a few tables and chairs. But on a warm summer afternoon, most patrons enjoy sitting outside at the umbrella tables in the charming piazza.

When the retail space on Route 6A became available, Paul Sullivan and Chuck Deluga, of the nearby Paul W. Sullivan & Associates and Betterwood Homes, envisioned opening a gelato store to further expand the locale’s “walking village,” similar to a European town square. Sullivan has developed the area’s commercial real estate properties, so he brought experience to the table.

To further expand their knowledge on gelato making, Sullivan and Deluga went to an internationally renowned gelato school in North Carolina. “It was great fun,” says Deluga. “I learned how to make 24 different flavors of gelato in three days.”

The work to convert the storefront was considerable and not without complications. Imported machinery from Italy, which was measured in centimeters, didn’t fit through the back door, so the remodeling expertise of the owners came in handy. “We just tore the wall out,” laughs Sullivan, and then they rebuilt the door after the gelato maker was safely inside.

The shop was an immediate hit. So successful, in fact, they ran out of gelato on opening weekend. But since then, they have made adjustments to meet customer demand. The busy store has certainly added to the allure of a commercial area that boasts a wine bar, electric bike rentals, art galleries and several gift stores. It also abuts a popular cultural destination: the Cape Cod Museum of Art, the Cape Cinema and the Cape Playhouse.

“People can just park and walk and do so many things here now,” says Deluga. “There are lots of shops and places to get food in the village,” he adds. “Everyone loves the piazza. Visitors can grab a gelato or something from one of the other shops and sit and eat in the sun.”

Stepping inside Sapori d’Italia, which backs up to GoodFellas and opens onto the piazza, you can be forgiven if, for a moment, you forget you are on Cape Cod. The canzoni wafting in the air, the walls painted in Tuscan colors and the travertine floor instantly transport you to Italy.

“I knew I wanted to create a space, a joyful space, for people to come together,” says owner Lynne Hamlyn. A busy wetlands consultant for nearly 30 years, Hamlyn had previously rented the building from Sullivan as an art gallery, a creative side endeavor that moved her closer toward building a pleasant gathering spot. Once her grown daughter, Hillary, moved to Italy to work with horses at an “agriturismo” farm, the idea morphed into a cozy shop that features Italian delicacies. “Wine and food—that’s what pulls people together,” she says. “My hope is that Sapori d’Italia can be, for our customers, a respite for a bad day or a supplement to a good one.”

She and Hillary worked hard to build this attractive environment, filled with good smells and delicious items. Lynne did much of the labor herself, installing the tile floor, painting the walls and finishing the eclectic vintage furnishings that house the wines, ceramics and pastas. The tall bookcases that serve as the display shelving for the wines—all Italian imports, many organic or from biodynamic vintners—were originally from Princeton University and still bear the scrawled signatures of studious readers.

Hillary sources many of the items herself when she is in Italy and loves that all the “cool stuff” she discovers—linens, olive dishes and clay bird whistles—can be shared with customers back home. Together, she and her mother found excellent distributors for the edible offerings at Sapori d’Italia and customers exclaim happily that the specialty pastas, cheeses, salumi, olive oils and canned goods are the kind they can usually only find in the North End of Boston or Federal Hill in Providence. Hillary’s fluency in Italian helps with ordering the very best imported foods. “I let her do the talking,” laughs Lynne.

With her daughter often abroad tackling the Italian side of the business, Lynne has brought in longtime friends to work in the store. Her goal is make Sapori d’Italia a friendly place, where people can try new foods and immerse themselves in a distinctly Italian atmosphere. In addition to offering regular wine tastings, she also plans to host cultural gatherings, like Italian lessons, as part of fulfilling her aspiration to present a welcoming, multi-faceted space for customers.

Deluge has even found what he thinks are perfect local musicians to serenade guests who stop to enjoy this Italianate corner of Dennis, a lively duo that call themselves “Garlic & Onion.” The hope is that a visitor will be transported to Italy by Italian music in the piazza, an al fresco meal of piave cheese and prosciutto on fresh bread, followed by a cup of affogato gelato for dessert. Molto Bene!

GoodFellas Gelateria, 766 Main St., Dennis, 508-258-0559
Sapori d’Italia, 766 Main St., Dennis, 774-323-0603, saporicapecod.com

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