story by Julia Steele
photo by Monte Costa
Stefano Mosi was born to a life of gelato. His father’s father was a gelato maker in Tuscany. His mother’s father was a gelato maker in Turin. His parents met in a gelato shop, which his father took over when he himself became a gelato maker. Young Stefano spent the first six years of his life living above the shop; some of his earliest memories are of his father bounding up the stairs bearing cones filled with Stefano’s favorite flavor, stracciatella.
These days Stefano makes his own stracciatella on the other side of the planet. He has brought the family mastery to Maui: In the small town of Pa‘ia—one letter and a world away from Pisa—he crafts his inventive gelato. There are always at least twenty-four flavors to choose from at Stefano’s shop, Ono Gelato. You might find a creamy green pistachio, made with nuts all the way from Sicily; or a tart mandarin, crafted from organic oranges growing just down the coast in Hana. Exotic occasional flavors include jackfruit and star fruit; favorites like chocolate and vanilla are perennials. Half of the twenty-four flavors at Ono Gelato are milk-based (and all made with organic milk, for Stefano is a believer in the “farm to fork” ethic and uses local and organic whenever possible). The other twelve flavors are fruit-based and vegan; Stefano, a transplant to the tropics from Italy via Canada, uses guava, mango, pineapple and more. And then there are his truly offbeat anomalies, like a rich, delicious liliko‘i (passion fruit) gelato made with goat milk; and a dense, flavorful apple banana gelato which contains no sugar.
Stefano runs Ono Gelato with his wife, Melissa—taking another page straight from his parents’ story, he met her in a gelato shop. When they were both in their early 20s, the two decided to open a bakery and gelateria in Victoria; they built it into a successful chain with their third partner, Valerie. When change beckoned, the trio traded British Columbia for the Valley Isle, and in December 2007 opened Ono Gelato at 115 Hana Highway. It’s been, says Stefano, a joy ever since.