As if the three-dozen gelato flavors alone weren’t enough to tempt customers, Sonny’s Gelato Cafe (2151 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton, 561/362-0447) never misses an opportunity to add a little eye candy. Ladyfinger cookies jut out from the divine “Tiramisu.” Marshmallows stud the “S’Mores Mix.” And circles of lime dot the top of its “Key Lime Pie.”
The Ben & Jerry’s-like inspiration of its various dessert toppings isn’t the only similarity to ice cream that regular diners at this burnt sienna building will appreciate. The gelati even tastes like your favorite Haagen-Dazs, accomplished through healthier means: skim milk, all-natural ingredients and no more than 7 percent butterfat.
Sonny’s has been dishing this frozen Italian delicacy and much more since 2002, but a lot has changed since then. This past January, original owner Sonny Lombardo sold the business to Jake Posternak, former manager of the Roundabout Diner and Lounge in Portsmouth, N.H., and his grandfather, Noel.
“My grandfather lives down here nine months out of the year,” Jake says. “I came from Maine, and we were looking to open a frozen yogurt franchise together. We saw that Sonny’s was for sale, tried it and loved it. It had such a great customer base, and we thought we could take the food to the next level.”
To that end, the Posternaks eschewed Sonny’s roster of subs and some of its appetizers, and brought in American comfort food—burgers, chicken fingers, irresistible beer-battered pickles—to join its selections of Italian panini, pasta and pastries. They also spruced up the decor (inside and out) and began opening for breakfast.
Otherwise, the peerless quality of Sonny’s gelato remains the same. And the Old World ambience still lingers, especially on Wednesday nights, when troves of Italians flood the tiki torch-lit patio, conversing in their native tongue, while an accordion player and a 98-year-old singer belt out romantic classics from 8:30 to 10:30. Now that’s amore.