“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco


Monday, March 4, 2013

Capogiro Gelato: Chef Chat with owner Stephanie Reitano



Cioccolata Scurro and Burnt Sugar

Ciao a tutti!! I think I have made my love for gelato pretty clear, so when I first heard about Capogiro Gelato in Philadelphia, I knew I had to get there someday and lucky for me, this past week I got there!! Not only did I get to have the best gelato I’ve had since Italy, I also had the chance to interview Stephanie Reitano (co owner, along with her husband John Reitano)

The lovely Stephanie Reitano
I have to tell you…this was real deal gelato. Smooth, creamy, rich, velvety and pure. One of the signs to tell if gelato (or ice cream for that matter) is better quality is how quickly it melts. When it melts quickly, that means it is made with a lot of air. I had my gelato each time for a good 25 minutes and there was no sign of melting.

I was in Philadelphia for a week, so I took the opportunity to try as many flavors as possible. One of the things that will strike you about Capogiro are the unusual flavors that they offer, like Cranberry and Heirloom Apple, Thai Coconut Milk, Chestnut and so much more. 

One day I went with a double scoop of Cioccolata Scuro. The Cioccolata Scurro tasted exactly like a flavor I had in Ischia that I have been on the lookout for, but alas, no one in the states seemed to offer a flavor like this….until Capogiro. It’s an intense, deep, chocolate gelato. It’s practically black. It was incredible. Over the next few days I also tried the Burnt Sugar, Pecan, Cashew, Sea Salt, Pistachio Siciliano and Cappuccino Stracciatella. All of these flavors were exceptional, I mean it. One of my favorite flavors is Pistachio but a big pet peeve of mine is that half the time pistachio flavors are made with almond extract, not the one at Capogiro. This gelato is made with the best pistachios for Sicily and you can taste it. So please….take a look at my interview with the lovely Stephanie Reitano and get to Capogiro as quickly as possible to experience bliss!

What inspired you to start Capogiro?


Cashew and Sea Salt
In September 2001, John and I went to Italy, our first vacation minus our three children. Needless to say, we were dizzy with possibilities due o all this sudden free time. After landing in Rome, we immediately hopped a train to Naples, then a boat to the island of Capri. While on our way to the hotel, we crossed La Pizzetta, the square at the heart of Capri and stumbled upon Buonocuore, a little gelato shop with a walk up window. In a warm handrolled cone made to order, I chose nocciola (hazelnut) and gianduia (chocolate hazelnut). In a way, that very cone led us to the next part of our marriage. Right then and there, John and I began our business by wondering why we could not find this flavor and this quality in the USA. After all, Cappuccino is here, so why not gelato? Creating that possibility became our mission. 

Did you have a favorite gelato flavor as a child and has it since changed? 

Gelato was not around when I was a child. My favorite ice cream flavor was Toasted Almond from a place called Hoffmann's. I have not changed much, as nut flavors are my favorite. Nocciola, Bacio and Pistacchio are my favorite gelato flours. I love sour sorbetto flavors. 

What makes your gelato stand out from the rest? 

Our ingredients. I am not a professionally trained chef, so when I started making gelato I used the same attention to quality ingredients as though I were cooking for my children. We are lucky to live in Philadelphia with access to some of the country's finest growing land. Not only is the soil fertile, the traditions are rich with much of the farming done by Amish and Mennonite families who have worked the same way for generations. Certified organic will never beat traditional organic when farmers livelihoods are a result of the way they choose to live. We use milk from a closed herd of grass-fed Scottish Ayrshire cows located 50 minutes outside of Philadelphia. Adhering to the rules of "artigianale", as defined by Italians, dictates that everything must be made in-house, the base as well as flavorings. There are no allowable shortcuts. If you want almond gelato, you have to roast and grind quality almonds to create the paste necessary for flavoring. Nor can anything be outsourced. Even if it is a Capogiro recipe, it sill must be made with Capogiro hands to qualify. 

Any favorite or special memories that involve gelato?

My first gelato in Capri. 

What are some of your more unique flavors and where do you get the inspiration for them?

I get inspiration from traveling, my kids, farmers, specialty cocktails...everywhere. Unique flavors are Rosemary Goat's Milk, Honey Cumin, Lime Cilantro, Mangosteen, Mamey Sapote, Salted Bitter Almond....

Pistachio Siciliano and Cappuccino Stracciatella
Where did you learn to make gelato?

I trained in Italy, with Italians here in the states, and with a French pastry chef. 

After going to Capogiro a few days in a row and seeing that you offer different flavors everyday, how do you decide which flavors to serve daily?

We make certain flavors every day at every cafe. Pistacchio, Nocciola, Thai Coconut  Milk, Scuro, Fior di Latte..etc. These are our core flavors that must be made and are available year round. Everything else depends on what is available seasonally and how ripe it happens to be. Additionally, certain stores have favorites.  Our employees drink the Capo Kool Aid, so if they request chocolate peanut butter (a staff fave), the kitchen obliges. This applies to certain regulars.  We like to keep our peeps happy. 

Any plans to open a Capogiro in the New York City area?

We would love to open in the New York City area. We ship a lot of gelato to NYC and we got a ton of compliments from that geographic area, as well as requests to open. It is definitely on our radar once we open up out of our current market.