James Coleridge, who owns the Bella Gelateria in Vancouver, said thousands of people who attended the Florence Gelato Festival 2012 voted for his pecan and Canadian maple syrup treat.
Coleridge said Thursday that he was among 30 competitors vying for the people's choice award at the annual gathering that this year drew 200,000 fans.
The Ottawa native said he used caramelized and toasted pecans infused with sea salt and maple syrup from Quebec for his award-winning entry.
"I flew my Canadian flag with great pride in my booth," he said.
"A lot of people from Brazil to Tel Aviv are shocked that a Canadian can go to Italy and win it."
Coleridge credited his expertise on a year-long course he completed in 2009 at Carpigiano Gelato University in Italy, where he specialized in chocolate and alcohol infusion.
"I was very highly trained, very highly educated in Italy and well prepared," he said, adding some of his competitors had been in the gelato business for three generations.
Coleridge had already nabbed the gold medal for his technical skills at the May festival before learning this week that his concoction also tantalized the taste buds of thousands of festival goers.
He said that compared to ice cream, gelato has seven per cent fat versus 28 per cent, and that gelato includes less than 15 per cent air while ice cream contains 60 to 80 per cent air.
Coleridge said he considers himself a custodian of the old way of making handcrafted gelato, using a slow process to create small batches of the soft dessert.
The gelato maestro's passion for the icy treat comes from his childhood experience: "I grew up eating cheap ice cream."