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Inside Death in Venice’s new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

By Caroline Aksich| Photography by Caroline Aksich

Eggplant tahini, crickets, black garlic and toasted fennel: none of these are your run-of-the mill gelato flavours—but Death in Venice isn’t your run-of-the-mill gelateria. Mad scientist Kaya Ogruce has been experimenting with funky flavour combos for years out of a shared space on Queen West. Now, a few blocks north, Ogruce finally has a space to call his own. Well, kind of—Ogruce has invited Parisian pastry chef Hadrien Verrier to handle the café‘s baked goods, while he toils away in his gelato laboratory.

The lab is a glassed-in box at the back of the shop. It was important to Ogruce that his gelato-making process be as transparent as possible. He wants people to see that he’s using real Niagara fruit, which he freezes in batches when it’s at peak ripeness. He also wants to educate people about gelato and proselytize its virtues. “I’m on a mission to make sure people know the difference between gelato and ice cream,” he says.

There’s a wall lined with edible (CXBO and David Chow chocolates, as well as sourdough loaves, granola and cookies made by Verrier) and non-edible goodies (Death in Venice swag and ceramics):

Inside Death in Venice's new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

The café serves Sloane teas and Propeller coffee:

Inside Death in Venice's new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

Here’s the gelato lab. The flavours on offer are written on the glass. On this particular day, the options included Mexican spiced chocolate, lemon-ricotta-rosemary, maple truffle sage, Turkish coffee, hay honey caramel, and smoked chocolate bourbon:

Inside Death in Venice's new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

Ogruce, at work in his lab:

Inside Death in Venice's new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

And filling up a pint:

Inside Death in Venice's new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

Here are some of Hadrien Verrier’s viennoiserie. There are, of course, all the classics (pain au chocolate, butter and almond croissants, and chocolate Danishes) as well as some seasonal options. The pink-striped flaky treat, for instance, is filled with rhubarb:

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Inside Death in Venice's new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

Here are a few of Verrier’s single-serving tarts. Clockwise, starting in the foreground, there is a lemon, ricotta and rhubarb tart ($8.25), a yuzu sponge cake topped with lemon curd ($8.25) and an opera cake ($8.25):

Inside Death in Venice's new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

This mocha cake ($45) serves eight:

Inside Death in Venice's new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

Here are the caramel bread puddings ($3.25). Some savvy folks have been ordering these with an accompanying scoop of gelato:

Inside Death in Venice's new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

They also make affogato ($7.50) with your choice of gelato:

Inside Death in Venice's new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

For those who wish to have gelato but not a cone, they can have it one of these ceramic cones made by Ogruce’s partner, Maddalena Fuller. $4.50 for a single scoop:

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Inside Death in Venice's new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

They sold 24,000 pints last year. Each one ($10.99) is hand scooped:

Inside Death in Venice's new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

And here’s where you can find the lab:

Inside Death in Venice's new gelato laboratory in Little Portugal

1418 Dundas St. W., 416-509-3044, deathinvenice.ca

Accessibility: No barrier at entrance; washroom in the basement.

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