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Oceanside couple living la ‘Dolce’ vita with Italian chocolates

Armando and Carrie Chacon hold confetti chocolates distributed by their Oceanside company, Dolce Italian Sweets.
Armando and Carrie Chacon hold confetti chocolates distributed by their Oceanside company, Dolce Italian Sweets.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Armando and Carrie Chacon and Italian expatriate Silvia Boschi import candies from Italy

For 25 years, Oceanside resident Armando Chacon has worked as an IT guy, helping business workers with their computer problems. But his new side business as an importer has come with an unexpected benefit.

“For the first time in my career, people now smile at me when they see me coming,” he joked.

That’s because Chacon is a co-owner of Dolce Italian Sweets, a 2-year-old company that imports gourmet chocolates and candies from Italy. The company’s products include shelled chocolates known as confetti, spiced chocolates, pralines, hazelnut chocolate bark, gianduja candy bars, cookies, cakes and more.

The candies are sold by special order on the company website dolceitaliansweets.com, to event planners and brides for wedding favors, to companies for employee gifts and to wineries for paired wine-and-chocolate tastings.

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Three years ago, Armando’s wife, Carrie Chacon, was working for a local events-planning business when she met co-worker Silvia Boschi, an expatriate of Parma, Italy. Boschi comes from a family that makes and sells Parma ham and she worked in Italy as an event planner.

While Boschi and Carrie Chacon were working together at a wine tasting with chocolates, Boschi started talking about the differences between American and Italian chocolates and she promised to bring over some imported Italian chocolates to share with the couple. Chacon said American chocolates often contain palm oil and a lot of sugar, which can mask the natural flavors of the ingredients. With less sugar and additives, Italian chocolates have a more pure taste, he said.

“What surprised me most about confetti was that these candies are really easy. You bite into them and you get the chocolate and you really taste the flavors you’re supposed to taste,” he said.

Dolce Italian Sweets
Dolce Italian Sweets recently hosted a sampling table of its imported chocolates at the Super Girl Surf Pro contest in Oceanside. Among the flavors pictured are strawberry, rosewater, pistachio, lemon and orange.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

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With a shared love for the Italian candies and the desire to start their own business, the trio launched Dolce Italian Sweets in 2017 (Dolce is the Italian word for “sweet”). Boschi, who is in Italy this summer, has arranged all of the import partnerships with Italian candymakers and the Chacons have been processing and shipping all of the orders from a rented commercial kitchen in North County.

The company imports salted and spiced chocolates, pralines, hazelnut chocolate bars, amaretto cookies, panettone cakes, torrone nougat candies, cocoa mix and more. For some of these items, Dolce is the only U.S. distributor.

Dolce’s signature product is called “confetti,” made by a company in Naples that has been manufacturing the treats for more than 100 years. These egg-shaped chocolates, wrapped in colorful candy shells, are similar to Jordan almonds, but Chacon said they have chocolate, rich fruit flavors and bits of candied fruit or nuts inside.

In Italy, confetti are served as favors at weddings, often in groups of three because — like the new couple — they can’t be easily divided. They’re also traditionally given at birthdays, baby showers and graduations. The confetti chocolates come in flavors such as coffee, cheesecake, orange, lemon, rosewater and pistachio. Dolce sells them in gift packs starting at $14.50 for a half-pound.

Chacon, an Escondido native, said much of the company’s sales are at bridal shows, plus special orders for parties or wine tastings. He and Boschi frequently make appearances at wineries to tell the stories behind these candies. Although they would love to distribute nationally, the delicate chocolates don’t ship well in heat, so they’ve been focusing Dolce’s business regionally.

They’re looking at possibly opening a boutique shop locally that can serve as both their retail outlet and importing center and they’re also in talks to serve as an importing liaison for some casino properties in Las Vegas.

“For now we’re not looking to be big,” he said. “This is an interesting way to meet new people and share the story of these products.”

Dolce Italian Sweets
A display of imported candies and chocolates distributed by Dolce Italian Sweets in Oceanside.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)
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