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Italian Immigrant's Dreams Become Sweet Reality

This is a story about a man and his gelato.

Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, and ice cream is a hugely popular treat among Americans.

But gelato is not exactly ice cream.

It is made with some milk instead of all cream which gives it less fat content, and it's churned in a way that infuses less air, which creates a denser, creamier product with a few less of those waistline-obliterating calories.

It's also a small-batch product, which brings us back to the man.

Gianluigi Dellaccio was born in Italy. He's one of four kids.

His dad was a traveling insurance salesman, and his mom was a housewife.

"When I was 6 years old, I had this accident," he explained. "And the accident put me in a position that I had to go swim to help my scoliosis."

It wasn't long before a water polo coach asked him to join the junior national team. He scored the game-winning goal — seen here at around the 0:50 mark — at the championship game.

It landed him a spot on the national team and also taught him a valuable life lesson.

"All the strength, all the dedication that I put in the sport I choose to invest it in my own life," he said.

Sweet dreams

Gianluigi chose to invest in gelato and introduce it to Americans.

He learned the business from his family in Germany, and later became a master gelatiere in Milan.

He took a job teaching the craft at a youth offenders' prison. It was the first time he'd used the type of authentic, gelato-making equipment that would shape his future.

"My dream was always to open a gelato shop here, in the United States," he said.

But the dream was a dream.

Gianluigi came to the U.S. in February 2000. He found work as a pastry chef at Galileo Restaurant here. The job helped put him on the path to permanent residency.

But then 9-11 happened. The immigration process slowed to a crawl.

Gianluigi had to wait six years to get his green card so that he could legally stay and work in the United States. During that time, he was not allowed to go home to see family and friends.

"It was very tough, because sometimes you have those days that you feel lonely and sad — homesick," he said. "Those days help[ed] me to build my strength."

Award winner

Finally, in 2006, he was able to open his gelato shop, Dolci Gelati.

He fixed up a Vespa, like the ones he'd had all his life, and he put a small trailer on the back.

WATCH: Anastasia Dellaccio talking about on early years of business

He went door to door, from one restaurant to another, offering chefs tastes of his product.

The direct marketing worked. A decade later, Gianluigi now has two stores in the Washington area.

He's also got a stand at Major League Baseball's Nationals Park.

"Once you reach a goal, you need to put another target to keep going, because if you reach one goal and you settle, that's the day that you go down," he said.

Gianluigi was a recent finalist in Chicago at the Gelato World Tour.

He will compete for the World's Best Gelato title in Italy in 2017.

It's a sweet ending for a sweet dream-turned-reality through years of work, big smiles and a little scooter.

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    Arash Arabasadi

    Arash Arabasadi is an award-winning multimedia journalist with a decade of experience shooting, producing, writing and editing. He has reported from conflicts in Iraq, Egypt, the Persian Gulf and Ukraine, as well as domestically in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland. Arash has also been a guest lecturer at Howard University, Hampton University, Georgetown University, and his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife Ashley and their two dogs.

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