The story of Roberto’s begins in 1971, not in Montreal, but in the city of Pescara, a seaside town in Abruzzo, Italy. Rocco D’Angelo, a man of humble origins, owns a well-known bar in town that serves up the best gelato around. It is a title not easily bestowed in Italy and Rocco credits his success to his recipe for the gelato’s base; the same recipe which is carefully guarded and used in Roberto’s to this day. Rocco worked hard trialing his many different recipes before figuring out the best combination of ingredients to reach a silky smooth and creamy gelato base. The recipe is so top-secret that only current day owner, Carlo Avvampato, Rocco’s son-in-law, knows how to make the base.
A new beginning in Montreal
In 1973, Rocco and his wife Angela Ferrara, who was born in Italy but grew up in Montreal, decided to embark on a life in Canada together. Rocco knew it would be tough to leave his family, and bar, behind, but Angela’s family in Montreal was very supportive and helped them settle into their new life.
After working odd jobs here and there at the beginning, Rocco began to realize he would never be truly satisfied in Canada unless he continued the work that brought him so much passion and success at home: gelato. In May of 1982, Rocco and Angela opened Gelateria Roberto and immediately became popular amongst other Italian-Canadians that first summer. The name Roberto was inspired by the newest member to the D’Angelo family, Rocco and Angela’s first grandson.
Cold winters drive innovation
Although that first summer was hit and word was spreading throughout town, Rocco quickly realized that gelato was not a best-seller during Montreal’s rather chilly winters. This was a problem he never had to face in his Southern Italian town, but now that he was back to following his dreams, Rocco was about to give up easily. He began to think of ventures that would complement the gelateria and could draw business year-round. A restaurant was the answer.
Ristorante Roberto was quickly opened with a menu of simple Italian classic. These were the dishes Rocco grew up eating and Angela cooked at home for their four children. The popularity of the restaurant was immense and eventually the entire place was redone to accommodate more guests. Rocco’s son, John, owns the restaurant today and continues to offer a menu of Italian classics with modern innovations.
Happy with the restaurant’s success, but seeing the opportunity to serve more people, Rocco decided to expand Roberto’s culinary offerings by opening the Gastronomia in 1994. Gastronomia Roberto has changed a lot over the years, but one thing is constant: the D’Angelo Family. It owned by Rocco and Angela’s daughters, Antoinette and Marilena, along with Marilena’s husband, Carlo and you will find them, or their children, or their nieces and nephews, cooking in the kitchen, serving guests and scooping ice cream any day of the week.
The Gastronomia is many things, just as gastronomias in Italy are! You can purchase fresh pasta and pasta sauces, frozen homemade lasagnas, specialty-food products imported from Italy and a daily menu with warm meals, soups and salads that can be enjoyed in-house or taken to go.
You can also order our infamous custom gelato cakes at the Gastronomia. The perfect way to celebrate a birthday, baptism or bridal shower.
A Montreal Staple
Roberto’s has been a staple of Italian-Canadian cuisine and gelato for more that 40 years. Still owned and operated by the same family, the commitment to quality and innovation has been the keys to our success, literally. Gelateria Roberto’s has been awarded best gelato three years in a row by Panorama and has won praise for the Journal de Montreal also. Visit us any day of the week, except Monday, for great food, gelato and a cozy, family environment.