It takes passion, it takes long hours, and if you don’t have those things, your competitor does.
-Michael Guerriero, Gelotti
Gelotti’s of New Jersey is a stellar example of passion for frozen desserts realized. The enthusiasm felt by the human engine of this three-location establishment is authentically contagious. A true appreciation for ice cream, gelato, and serving their communities through love of the culinary craft and innovation the Gelotti family practices on a daily basis is evident. Below, ice cream and gelato aficionados Sal Sigona, Gelotti Founder and Mike Guerriero, Owner, Gelotti Caldwell/Montclair share their stories of why this culinary art form is so important to them as individuals first, and businessmen second; what their dreams are in terms of how to continue to please their loyal consumer base, and what they look to contribute to the future of America’s and Europe’s most beloved treats.
Janae Morris (JM): What’s your gelato backstory? How/when were you first introduced to gelato?
Sal Sigona (SS): In the late 80’s traveling to Italy frequently piqued my interest in any and all gelato products. The texture wasn’t heavy, it was smooth, light, and the tremendous burst of flavor blew me away.
Michael Guerriero (MG): I started working at Gelotti Ice Cream when I was 14 years old as a dishwasher and prep guy. I would squeeze lemons, melt chocolate, grab milk, etc. Over time, squeezing lemons turned into preparing batches, which turned into helping make gelato while our gelato guy ate lunch. Eventually, I was given the chance to test what I knew. From 17 on I made most of the gelato at Gelotti.
(JM): When did you decide you wanted to open a gelateria?
(SS): Gelato was an addition to my already running ice cream store, Village Farms in Clifton.
(MG): Well, I was in school studying a million things and finally ended with business. I decided I wanted to apply that degree, and
I searched and blew up many concepts before I realized I had
been doing what I loved since I was 14, and ice cream and gelato were it.
(JM): What kind of flavor innovation do you aim to bring to your customer base?
(SS): Exotic fruit flavors, and product lines like vegan and sugar free to keep up with the increasing allergies prevalent in children around the world.
(MG): I want to be ahead of the flavor trends. Being in the gelato and ice cream industry we are able to combine flavors and techniques and give our customers the highest quality ingredients.
(JM): How do you feel about being part of the voice that continues to introduce gelato and educate Americans about this European treat?
(SS): My son Robert is a huge advocate for spreading the word on the difference and benefits behind gelato vs. ice cream. Not only is he a spitting image of me, but he carries out my passions to the customers I have been serving for over 30 years.
(MG): I love educating people because they know it’s real; they know it’s not factory made gelato we are passing off, and they learn more and more. Little things from Bacio means kiss in Italian to Nutella’s first name was Pasta Gianduija, which is a carnival character. I can go on and on.
(JM): What brings you the most fulfillment about serving gelato on a daily basis? What are the moments that stand out most?
(SS): Putting smiles on people’s faces; watching their family enjoy looking at our huge selection while indulging in such amazing products.
(MG): Making people happy. Hearing why they love our ice cream; why they love Gelotti, and being able to share with them stories about ice cream.
(JM): What do you want Gelotti’s legacy to be?
(SS): More stores, more products, more smiles.
(MG): I want Gelotti to always be a place that helps kids; that spreads joy. What I am trying to do is continue to stay engaged in the community, help youth programs, and provide jobs and responsibility to the kids in the neighborhoods we operate in.
(JM): If there’s any piece of business advice you could offer to up-and- coming dessertpreneurs, what would it be?
(SS): Stick with what you love. If your passion is gelato or desserts, follow your dreams. Investigate, research, listen, and learn from all experienced sources. The people know the best!
(MG): It takes passion, it takes long hours, and if you don’t have those things, your competitor does. Don’t go for fads; go for higest quality gelato.