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Cold Front Gelato
306-60 Commercial St., Nanaimo, BC

The Word on The Street

A cold front arrived in Nanaimo early May 2018 and it looks like it’s here to stay. Sunny Parsons, a gelato aficionado and businesswoman, has opened up shop on the lower block of Commercial St. in the downtown district of Nanaimo. One month in and her business is already the buzz of the town – apparently even in the construction yard, said one source.

“You have to try out the new gelato shop downtown,” said a burly man, sitting on a pile of 2×4’s at coffee break. “My wife took me there and it is amazing!”

With so much talk, we decided to check it out ourselves. Here’s what we found out:

The Story

How and where did you learn to make gelato?

“I attended the Gelato University in Bologna, Italy. I was there two years ago to complete the beginner and intermediate levels. This year, I returned to complete the advanced course.”

“I still have a lot to learn, but at least I have the knowledge I need to try any flavour. Now, my learning is happening in the kitchen. I feel there is a lot to learn about different local ingredients, when they are ready, and how to pair them.”

Do you have any personal ties to Italy (the birthplace of gelato)?

“My grandfather was Italian, though he was born in Canada; but mostly my connection comes from travelling there and falling love with their food.”

What gave you the desire to open up shop in Nanaimo?

“I grew up on the Island, in Campbell River. When it was time to move back last year, I decided Nanaimo would be a great way to be close to my sister in Ladysmith and my parents in Courtenay. I arrived with my husband and my daughter and we immediately fell in love with it here. I also have great memories of Commercial St. growing up, so I was so thrilled to think that I might get to be right here, downtown.”

Your mission?

“I really want to create a memorable experience – a gelato that makes people stop and enjoy the moment.”

Flavours & Ingredients


“All of our milk and cream is Vancouver Island dairy, usually Island Farms.”

How The Flavours Come to Be

Sunny is often found in the kitchen, experimenting and creating new flavours. There is always something new to try upon each visit and when she makes her gelato she sticks to her principles and prioritizes the use of locally available ingredients. So, not only are you tasting a unique Cold Front flavour, but you’re also tasting the flavours of Vancouver Island and the surrounding area.

Some current flavours include:

  • Rhubarb & Raspberry, made from fresh Farmship Rhubarb and BC-grown raspberries.
  • Mint Chocolate Stracciatella, made with Farmship mint and sustainably sourced chocolate.
  • Chocolate Stout, made using stout from Longwood Brewery and dark chocolate (a combination of fair trade and sustainably sourced chocolate).
  • Espresso Stracciatella, made with Milano Espresso (a Vancouver-based company) and sustainable and traceable chocolate).
  • Honey Lavender, made with culinary English Lavender from Shamrock Farm in the Comox Valley and honey from Frederich’s Honey Farm in Nanaimo.
  • London Fog Gelato, made with earl grey tea from Justea, a Vancouver-based company.
  • When making this flavour, the tea is infused and then strained.
  • “I love the transparency provided by this fair-trade company…” says Sunny. “…and I love the cold-pressed bergamot. It is one of my favourite teas, so I felt I had to turn it into a gelato flavour.”
  • Sunny uses sustainably-sourced vanilla beans to produce the savoury notes of vanilla found in a few of her recipes.
  • “Plant-based organic coconut milk and homemade almond milk are used to make the base for our matcha and vanilla flavours,” says Sunny. “Our matcha comes from Amoda Tea (in Vancouver) and Lafaza produces our vanilla, sustainably farmed in Madagascar.”
  • “We have a plant-based chocolate flavour that uses fair-trade cocoa powder and organic coconut milk.”
  • Along with gelato, Cold Front also serves a delicious assortment of sorbets which are a vegan-friendly option for our herbivore friends.
  • Other ingredients include organic lemons and BC berries.
  • Cold Front Gelato makes their waffle cones in-house and they are delicious!

What is your favourite flavour?

“It’s pretty hard to choose a favourite. The best thing about running your own gelato shop is that you can make all your favourite flavours. Currently, I really enjoy the chocolate stout and today, I opted for the Matcha and Vanilla combination.”

Is there a “Nanaimo Bar” flavour to come?

“I have some ideas for my Nanaimo bar…. more details to come,” said Sunny with a smile.

The Process


How do you make your gelato?

“Everything is made from scratch and begins with creating a few base recipes that can be adjusted for each flavour. Ageing the base overnight improves texture and flavour. Then, I might infuse the gelato with spices, coffee beans and/or tea leaves. Or I might add pure nut butters or layers of poached fresh fruit.”

“For the plant-based flavours, I soak the almonds overnight to make the milk the next day and/or I use coconut milk.”

“Most importantly, I make sure I use the freshest ingredients I can find. I also really believe in using 100% natural, whole foods.”

Can you talk to us about your production facility and your viewing windows (adult and children’s windows)?

“The production facility is equipped with Carpigiani machines, for the highest quality of artisan gelato. The Maestro is a gelato and pastry machine. It makes chocolate sauces and poaches fruit to ensure quality, homemade sauces in the gelato. It also creates only about 20% overrun, or air incorporation, which is very little. The purpose is to keep the gelato dense with quality ingredients, and not full of air, like so many commercially produced frozen desserts that add up to 100% air.”

“The windows are there for transparency and for the experience. I think that consumers today want to know what is in their food and they want to know how it is being produced. The more we can know about the farms that they come from, the better”

What about gelato sets it apart from ice cream?

The rundown:

Gelato has an air incorporation rate of 20-30%, while ice cream is 40-100% air incorporation. Therefore, gelato is denser/heavier. Gelato also uses less fat, usually 5-7%, though some flavours are a little higher. Gelato is served at a warmer temperature (-12 to -14 Celsius); ice cream is served at -18. These qualities combine to give gelato a more intense flavour. The culture of gelato making also tends to better promote the importance of freshness. We, at Cold Front, make our gelato daily, so everything in the pozzetti has been prepared in the last day or two. (Sunny Parsons)

The Experience

What about your shop makes for an authentic gelato experience?

“I think that even though I am focusing on local ingredients and flavours, I am honouring traditional Italian methods of production. Also, it is the use of fresh ingredients and the continuing production, daily, that is important to the finest Italian gelato. Finally, I also will rotate traditional Italian flavours. At the moment, I have pistachio, which is a very important flavour in Italy.”

Do you sell pints?

“Yes, glass jars are arriving this week! So, look for pints very soon.” – Sunny

★ Cold Front also sells gelato popsicle sticks.

Will you be participating in any festivals or events?

“Currently, we are at Cedar Market on Sundays and Parksville’s “Summer By The Sea” on Tuesday nights. We will also be open late for the Thursday Night Market here downtown starting at the end of June.”

★ “Cold Front serves up some of the finest Espresso,” said one customer. “There cappuccinos are the best I’ve ever had.”

With a talent for both Italian gelato and espresso, Sunny Parsons is surely a double threat, so come in for a cuppa & a cone and treat yourself right.

★ You can follow Cold Front Gelato on Facebook at @ColdFrontGelateria, Instagram at @ColdFrontNanaimo. A website is coming soon ~


— Written by Curtis Havekotte