The family business of Alexandria’s Casa Rosada Artisan Gelato has been a popular spot for cold treats since 2014, when Benjamin Umansky opened up the joint after tinkering with gelato making as a hobby the 10 years prior. But it was a customer’s suggestion, or request, that brought the Umansky family into the business of dog treats.
“The focus with Casa Rosada was selling to humans at that point,” said David Umansky, one of Benjamin’s sons. “Some of the repeat customers who have pets would come back and suggest we start something for dogs. [At that point] they would give [their dogs] the human-grade gelato.”
Being a neighborhood store, the Umanskys wanted to please all of their customers, so they began tinkering with different recipes. They practiced for a few months making gelato specifically for dogs, doing the research on what is good and bad for dogs that is typically found in human gelato.
“There are a few ingredients found in human gelato that isn’t necessarily the best for dogs so it is best to avoid it,” says David. “So we intentionally made a product that doesn’t include those ingredients: eggs, guar gum and lactose.”
Testing the product fell on the humans. Henry, brother Mark’s rescue dog, was involved in the process, as were some customers’ dogs who got to sample the treat, but David says Henry’s “energetic personality and his will to dive into anything you give him” made it hard to gauge a true reaction from a dog’s perspective.
“As part of development we tried it and it is really good,” says David. “It doesn’t have the texture you find in human gelato. It’s still soft and melts but you can’t scoop it and put it on a cone because [it lacks] eggs and the amount of high-fat content, milk and creams found in human-grade gelato.”
The Umanskys have been selling the pumpkin-spiced gelato with peanut butter and banana gelato bone topping at Casa Rosada in the shop for a while now, but they have just started its own branding campaign, calling it Hungry Henry’s Dog Gelato. The 6-ounce concoction, made with lactose-free milk, coconut oil, cane sugar and food starch, is being packaged for take home options and the Umanskys are looking to get it into dog boutique stores in Virginia and Pennsylvania, where David currently lives. And this summer they are thinking of introducing an apple-based flavor.
The family has thought about bringing it into the mass market at stores like PetSmart and Whole Foods, but they’re focusing on boutiques to start.
“We’ve taken the initial steps through sponsoring of Operation Paws for Homes [during the Puppy Bowl viewing party on Super Bowl Sunday], given that Henry is a rescue,” says David.
Right now Hungry Henry’s is only available at Casa Rosada, but it is worth the trip if you aren’t nearby.
“So far, all the customers have loved it,” says David. “We have a repeat customer, who always buys [gelato] for his dog, stopped in prior to the seasonal closing this past year. He came in and bought a handful to get his dog through the closing.”