The Inside Scoop: How The Pandemic Inspired the Opening of Boca Gelato

Calling all gelato connoisseurs. Nestled amongst the leafy streets of Ivanhoe in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs is the newest venture between Adam D’Sylva (Coda, Tonka) and Monika Frkovic, BOCA Gelato. You can’t miss the pastel green hues of the former bookshop, now BOCA shopfront as you walk along Upper Heidelberg Road. Not to mention the terazzo countertops! Inside, you will be treated to a feast of handmade Italian gelato flavours, including many traditional, and many unexpected, even more delicious combinations.

Boca opened its doors in 2021, smack-bang in the middle of the pandemic. Which, surprisingly, co-owner Monika Frkovic says was the inspiration behind the store. “We saw an opportunity to bring something special in what was perceived as a pretty bleak time.” We spoke to Monika about their unique location, opening hurdles and plans for the future. Read on for the full conversation.

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SQ: Since opening its doors in 2021, BOCA Gelato has become equally known for its delicious classic Italian flavours and unexpected (maybe even more delectable) combinations. Can you tell us a little more about the inspiration behind BOCA?

B: We’re inspired to bring natural products to the suburbs for the discerning palates of Melbourne, just like Adam does in his restaurants.

SQ: What made you pick the leafy suburb of Ivanhoe as opposed to a Melbourne CBD location to open BOCA?

B: Adam is connected to this area, he lives in it, he does his shopping on the strip. We love how people come to us. After school, sports, family dinners, or just cause. It’s about accessibility, people stroll in during their walks or pop in between appointments. There are fewer formalities out here. Gelato brings family and fun.

SQ: 2020 and 2021 have been anything but normal for business. What have your challenges been navigating a new business opening amidst the pandemic?

“It’s hard to predict what your business will look like in a month or year because the climate changes constantly. We haven’t really found a normal.”

— Monika Frkovic, Co-Owner Boca Gelato

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B: It was what inspired BOCA, we saw an opportunity to bring something special in what was perceived as a pretty bleak time. Behind the scenes, I think timelines are what suffer the most. In the beginning, it was issues with the build, permits and materials, or shipping of equipment from overseas. Now its milestones, it’s hard to predict what your business will look like in a month or year because the climate changes constantly. We haven’t really found a “normal”.

SQ: What have been your biggest wins since opening?

B: The community support and everybody loving what we do.

SQ: Favourite Gelato flavour/combination?

B: You don’t have favourites. It depends on the weather and your mood. We are spoiled for choice!

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SQ: There is an enviable wealth of experience and knowledge in the industry between Adam and yourself. What are your top three pieces of advice for restaurants owners?

B: Know your market, know your concept and have the x-factor.

SQ: Why did you choose Square to help you run your business?

B: We had used it previously and we loved how simple it was to set up. The no-nonsense fee structure was also appealing. It integrates well into other programs like Xero so there are no manual entries. For us, it was a no brainer. Overall Square saves us time and reduces the amount of boring admin that distracts from the running of BOCA.

SQ: How are you using Square day-to-day?

B: We are running two tablets with Square as our Point Of Sale. During the lockdown, we created an Online Store to help us with deliveries. It was literally set up in minutesQ We also have our Gift Cards printed and integrated with Square.

SQ: What flavour has been a surprise favourite for customers? What do they love about it?

B: I think the Carrot Cake struck the balance between weird and familiar. It’s such a classic cake but our interpretation of it with the cream cheese gelato, chunks of carrot cake and the caramel sauce was interesting. People still ask for it to return at least once a day. Will have to give in soon!

SQ: Do you have any new flavours coming up, give us the inside scoop!

B: We have further collaborations coming up with people we love, not just chefs but bakers and designers. It will be cool to see our products through their eyes.

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SQ: 2022 is already posing tough challenges for the food industry (staff shortages, pandemic complications). What are your plans for the year ahead?

B: These things are something that businesses struggle with daily but they are now amplified. So you make plans on plans. We’d like to expand BOCA gelato into other suburbs, we would love to start doing more events (at some point).

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