ENCINITAS, Calif. — The owner of Gelato 101 in Encinitas is dishing out more than frosty treats — he also had a first helping of a totally different life on two wheels.
It’s a life not talked about much anymore.
“The only other job I had was a professional cyclist. I was collecting the miles in Italy for several years until I was 22, when I got injured — hence the change of career.”
David Arato grew up in a small town in Italy, where he started riding a bike at 8 years old. Ten years later he became a professional after being drafted by an Italian cycling team, finding success while traveling around the world.
“I won the Geo twice. That’s a tour of Hungary. It’s a big open professional race and I still hold the mountain times, 20 years later.”
A knee injury and years of wear and tear forced Arato to get off the bike at 22, walking away from a career he’s known his whole life. Months later, Arato came to America and opened his first gelato shop in Seattle in 2003.
“When I came to the U.S. during racing and the friends I made came to visit me in Italy, they had gelato three times a day and they couldn’t stop talking about it, how they said ‘we don’t have this at home’ and the ‘coffee is so much better here’ and all of that pounded in my brain and I said, alright, maybe I should bring that there.
Since then, he’s opened up a handful of locations in San Diego County.
Now at 42, Arato lives in Encinitas with his wife, four kids and a love for his second helping of life.
“At the end of the day, why do people go to a place like mine? It is to brighten their day, to uplift their mood, to feel better about everything happening in their life, so that’s really what I love to see people after they experience one of my stores, smiling and having a good time and remembering it as an uplifting experience so they come back,” Arato said.
Arato only cycles with his kids around the neighborhood, but prefers to do all the things he missed out on while being a pro.
“I was held back for all those years … so when that gate opened, I snowboard, I surf, everything they told me not to do. The first experience and what came after, it’s beautiful, it makes this life of mine what it is today and I love to share it with people.”
If you’re wondering, Arato says the passionfruit and tiramisu are his favorite flavors.