When Massimo Giusti first moved to the United States in 2009, after winning the green card lottery, he wasn’t sure he was here to stay.
But a decade later, he's settled in Cole Valley, where he runs his own Italian doughnut business, called Mr. Bomboloni.
After arriving in the U.S., Giusti first worked as a dishwasher at restaurants in North Beach and Union Square. But as his English improved, he realized that he wanted to start his own business.
Doughnut shops may be a common sight in San Francisco, but they aren't in Italy. Instead, bomboloni can be found at the beach, where vendors walk around selling them "sempre caldi" (that's Italian for "always hot").
Eager to bring the treats stateside, Giusti went back to his hometown of Lucca, Italy, for a few weeks, where he quickly learned how to make bomboloni from a friend.
But it was Giusti's girlfriend, Tracy Skibo, who helped his business achieve liftoff. A graphic designer, Skibo created Mr. Bomboloni's hot-air balloon logo (to promote the “light-as-air” doughnuts) and did all the branding and marketing to help get the business off the ground.
“Without her, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Giusti said.
The original Mr. Bomboloni doughnuts were larger, but these days, Giusti makes them in smaller-sized bites on a stick, filled with either Nutella, lemon-vanilla cream or raspberry jam.
“It’s good and it’s fun,” he said. “We always say food on a stick tastes better."
The donuts are sold at Caffe Trieste in North Beach, The Italian Homemade Company's Bay Area locations, and a few other San Francisco businesses. Giusti also serves his doughnuts at events, like the monthly TreasureFest on Treasure Island.
But he's likely best known to Cole Valley neighbors for his Tuesday-morning pop-ups outside Italian wine bar InoVino (108 Carl St.), which run until 11 a.m.
Guisti, who lives just a block away from InoVino, said he likes setting up his cart there because the neighborhood reminds him of Italy, and its tradition of small, family-owned shops where locals walk around and support each other.
“I love doughnuts, and I’m sure people here like our doughnuts because they are light and really simple," he said. "We always fill them with something good."
As far as Mr. Bomboloni's plans for the future, Giusti said he might do some more pop-ups around the city. But he prefers to do them occasionally, rather than daily.
“All good things are not available all the time,” he said.
Mr. Bomboloni's full list of vendors can be found at its website. Follow Massimo on Instagram for info on the Cole Valley pop-ups.