In Italian, “Capogiro” means “head turner” and it’s usually in reference to a beautiful woman or the likes of a Ferrari. But in Philadelphia-situated Capogiro’s case (since December 2002), husband and wife owners John and Stephanie Reitano are most likely referring to the gelato they cook up in their downstairs kitchen. With new flavors daily (let me give you a taste in your mouth for the exotic), Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, Pistacchio Siciliano, and Sweet Potato With Pecan Praline, it’s no wonder they have received acclaim. Capogiro’s gelato is made from the freshest and finest ingredients: local Pennsylvanian handpicked produce and milk from grass-fed, hormone-free cows. And the best news yet? Gelato has half the calories, half the fat, and in my opinion double the experience of your standard banana split (now there’s an idea for a first date!) Amidst the rush of Valentine’s Day weekend, I was fortunate enough to speak to Stephanie Reitano about how difficult it was to start a new business, the inspiration behind new flavors, and how she really feels about ice cream. Here’s what she had to say:
Stephanie, where did you get the inspiration to start a gelato business of your own?
John, my husband, was born in Italy and he was eager to take me there. During the summer of 2001, John and I took a two-week vacation to Italy. I had my first gelato in Capri. I do not really like ice cream, but it looked interesting and I was exhausted from a long flight and I tried it. I could not believe the intensity of flavor and texture. Long story short, we ate gelato everyday, sometimes two to three times each day. We returned from Italy craving gelato and discussing why gelato was not in the U.S. John, who is a physician, began to coax me into attempting gelato at home. We started to plan a gelateria. September 11th hit (which is also his birthday) and we thought that we should not try something so risky. John has a good practice and my going back to work seemed unstable (I was a stay-at-home mom of three). We felt that we had to do this. After a tremendous amount of research, trial and error and sheer luck, I figured out how to make gelato. John runs the business and still practices medicine. I make gelato and run the kitchen.
Was it difficult to start a business on your own? What kinds of obstacles were there?
It was extremely difficult. Both John and I had never had a retail/wholesale business and the details are overwhelming. People would not speak to us because I was a mom and John was a doctor. We became so frustrated that our friends who own La Colombe coffee told us to mention their name to get return calls. Tony Goldman met with us and had faith in our vision to open a European gelateria and we went into his developing neighborhood. At the time, only gay porn shops and wig stores were our neighbors. It was fun, really.
What time do you have to wake up each morning?
Gelato production starts at 6 am each morning. The production finishes by noon. We produce at least 27 different flavors each day.
How do you come up with new flavors?
I find new flavors everywhere. Great cocktails, exquisite fruit, interesting dishes at restaurants, my farmers are always asking me to make something for them, you name it.
Is it true that Gelato is healthier than ice cream?
Absolutely. Gelato has half the calories and half the fat of ice cream. Sorbetto is fat free and contains far more fruit. We have a section on our website, “Gelato Facts,” which will give you all the bullets.
Do you ever eat ice cream?
No. I do not like ice cream. It is rock hard and gives me a headache. Gelato is warmer and there is no fat to get in the way of the flavor. It melts immediately when it hits your tongue and you taste all the flavor.
Thanks Stephanie, best of luck with Capogiro!
119 S. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
From their website, you can sign up for e-mail delivery of their “Daily List of Flavors” and even order a few pints of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla direct to your door.