First Look: Il Gelato Café in Hale‘iwa

A new outpost of this local gelato favorite opens in the North Shore Marketplace.


Hale‘iwa is a shave ice kind of town—and has the long lines of fans to prove it. But when it comes to getting something sweet and frozen, there’s now a new option, thanks to an outpost of Il Gelato Café (HONOLULU Magazine’s 2014 pick for best gelato).


Located in the North Shore Marketplace next to Cholo’s, this open and airy storefront offers many of the standout menu items that have made the Kāhala Mall location a local favorite, including a rotating cast of up to 16 flavors at a time and specialty items such as affogato (espresso over gelato), spaghetti gelato (a German invention of pushing gelato through a ricer into a pile of fluffy spaghetti-like strands) and gelato panini (gelato pressed into a warm brioche shell).



But it also comes with a new feature: an open demonstration area that lets customers watch gelato being made on-site—something owner Dirk Koeppenkastrop envisioned when he founded Il Gelato as a wholesale business five years ago. “We want customers to watch us doing it, and then sample,” he says of the layout, which also comes with a television screen that will stream a close-up feed of what’s going on in the machine.


Koeppenkastrop, a longtime kite surfer, has had his eye on expanding to the North Shore since he started Il Gelato, for reasons obvious (the waves) and personal (he and his wife got married at Pipeline in 1989), but the space for an on-site gelato machine is a bonus because he can test new flavor combinations. “A customer came in this morning and wanted to know if we could use her soursop,” he says, noting plans to incorporate as much fresh produce from North Shore farms as possible. He’s already got ideas for specific varieties of local mango, as well as liliko‘i and calamansi.


Note that Koeppenkastrop already has around 150 gelato recipes he’s dreamed up over the last five years for retail, wholesale clients and the Kāhala shop—ranging from well-loved basics (Kona coffee, raspberry) to far-out experiments (lobster bisque, cracked parmesan and fior di latte).


It makes sense that, in addition to owning Il Gelato and serving as chair of the Hawai‘i Restaurant Association, he is in training as the U.S. team captain for the 2016 World Gelato Championships. That means he’s always pushing for innovation in new flavor combinations and perfecting his technique—which benefits all of us.


Open everyday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., North Shore Market Place, 66-250 Kamehameha Highway, C104, Hale‘iwa, 637-7100,