Dining Reviews

Gelato Goes Vegan, With Surprising Results

Staff of Life debuts remarkably creamy vegan options for gelato bar

Fiorello “Tony” Bonviso of Fiorello’s has brought organic vegan gelato to Staff of Life.

I’m such a fiend for gelato that all it took was an email from the Staff of Life folks alerting me to their new gelato bar offerings, and I was hopping in the car. Yes, I would like to try something very Santa Cruz purist in the way of gelato: organic vegan gelato!

A gelato bar has bloomed in Staff of Life’s atrium café, with 16 flavors (and a dozen in the Watsonville store). But what should excite the finicky gelatophile are the brand-new organic vegan flavors—chocolate, vanilla, and salted caramel date, for starters.

Not being a vegan myself, I had my doubts about the idea of a creamy frozen dessert made without cream. And while the chocolate vegan gelato, once it had softened a bit, was nice, the salted caramel studded with bits of dates was very, very good. No offense vegans, but let me say I was stunned by how delicious and creamy this cream-free gelato was. I ate the entire half-cup of this wonderful stuff ($5 for a large cup) before I even got out of the parking lot.

The organic vegan gelato was made specifically for Staff of Life by Fiorello’s, which has been making Italian artisan gelato in San Rafael for 40 years. After the success of the most popular flavors supplied by the company, Staff buyers had a brilliant idea.

“We originally brought in the flavors that he [entrepreneur Fiorello “Tony” Bonviso] normally offers,” a Staff spokesperson told me. “People loved it, and we knew our customers would really appreciate organic and vegan.” 

Fiorello was approached and asked if he could make some special batches for the landmark natural foods store. And he did. Try it—you’ll be as surprised (and delighted) as I was. Staff of Life, 1266 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz and 906 E. Lake Ave., Watsonville.

Nectarines and Lunch

High summer likes a picnic. And so do we, especially since the fruit is damn nigh perfect right now. Apricots, nectarines, peaches—and, of course, avocados. Shoppers Corner is famed not only for its major selection of local wines, but also for seasonal fruit. That’s where we’ve snapped up some of the best stone fruit of summer. And for the full picnic, you might take a serious look at the prepared foods coolers at New Leaf. The tuna salad is great on one of those half loaves of sourdough from La Posta. We always stock Haig’s dolmas and hummus, the essentials of lunchtime indoors or out. So many cheeses, grab a few for dining emergencies. Right now is the moment for cherries. And for especially delicious local dry-farmed fruit—Red Haven Peaches and Shiro Plums—head over to the Ocean2table website (getocean2table.com) and order some unforgettable flavors to go with your King Salmon and Petrale Sole. I know, I know, food—especially organic—is expensive these days. But eating as well as you can afford is crucial for staying strong and healthy (I sound like an ad). Processing and preservatives undermine your entire bodily infrastructure. Buy organic and local as much as you can; your body (including tastebuds) will thank you.

Word on the StreetLaili Restaurant has temporarily closed through August. Stay tuned for re-opening details. Laili – 101B Cooper St., Santa Cruz. 831-423-4545.

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