Local gelato phenoms chase their ‘Coconut Dreams’ of a world title

CHICAGO -- The best-of-the-best gelato makers are packing their bags for Italy this week to compete in the world finals, and among them is a Chicago family whose Elmwood Park Italian cafe has people lined up to try their outrageous flavors.

The Lollino family has been dishing up authentic Italian fare for decades, but it's their gelato that is putting them on the world stage after they beat out hundreds of competitors already with a flavor they call, "Chicago pothole."

At the their Massa Caffe you can count on two things: a line of people waiting to try to their Vero gelato, and a tough decision once you make it to the front and see the dozens of rich concoctions. The Lollinos have been at it a long time. Grandpa was a master Italian coffee roaster. Grandma was an Italian chef.

"From the day I was born...I was injected with coffee and gelato and great Italian food," Angelo Lollino said.

On a whim, the Lollinos, along with their partner Ali Caine, entered a contest looking for the country's best tasting gelato at Millennium Park last May. In true Chicago fashion, they named their nutty chocolate marshmallow entry "Chicago Pothole" - and they cleaned up, winning first place in the U.S., and second place among North and South America.

Their win propelled them to the world finals just outside Venice, Italy next week, but they're bringing a new flavor called "Coco Sogno," or "Coconut Dream." This dream is made of organic coconut puree, whole vanilla bean, Belgian white chocolate chips and a carmelized almond crunch.

The father and son duo has been perfecting their latest flavor for weeks through a time-consuming process. Each batch takes almost 18 hours to set. But is it good enough to win? They think so, but they are still checking out their competition daily. This family is passionate about gelato, and says winning that title would make their story that much sweeter.