Antonio De Vecchi, 43, born in Torino, living in Leicester, UK since 2003. Gelato Village opened on the 22nd of August, 2014.
I have been a nurse since 1991 and worked mostly in operating theaters both in Italy and then in the UK. Leicester became my adoptive city and I have been living here since May 2003.
In 2012, with Daniele Taverna, I started considering a dramatic career change and, during a trip to the deep Egyptian desert with dear common friends, we took the decision to pursue the project of opening a gelateria in Leicester.
I enrolled for two weeks course at CGU in May 2013 with the great Maestro Gianpaolo Valli. After the course, with Daniele Taverna and another friend, Peter Rodgers, as investor, we started making plans and contacted Carpigiani UK.
In November 2013 we incorporated Gelato Village Ltd and identified an empty unit in the Leicester historic centre, nearby the city's Cathedral and the recently opened Richard III Visitor Centre.
From that point on, we closely worked with Tommy Carrigan of Carpigiani UK and with our designer Lorenzo Rosa, in order to purchase the equipments and shop-front cabinets and redesign the place. After a few months of hard work our new gelateria became reality!
The invaluable help of CGU teachers Cristian Bonfiglioli, for the opening, and Matteo Carloni for the follow-up has been key to support and boost our confidence.
When did you decide to open a gelato shop? Has it always been a dream of yours or was it a sudden decision?
I always loved gelato, especially the good one! Being able to create my own gelato, knowing the science behind it, was just a dream come true!
Why did you decide to produce and sell gelato?
Because it is a great Italian product, it is an art, it represents a long history and tradition, there is no limit to imagination. But, above all, it is because there is nothing better than a gelato to make people happy!
Where did you learn about Carpigiani Gelato University? Why did you decide to register for courses?
If I remember well, I heard about CGU for the first time on TV, on a BBC report from Bologna!
I was considering a dramatic career change, learning about the art of gelato making was an interesting and exciting option.
What is the mission of your gelato shop?
Our mission is to promote the “Italian Stile” and in particular to give the opportunity to our customers to have a good time enjoying a good Italian artisan gelato. It is also to demonstrate that simple things are the best ones, as long as they are done with passion and knowledge.
What was the inspiration for the name of your gelato shop?
We found what we think is a welcoming name that gives the idea of a community of people that want to spend a good time together. We also wanted to make a statement: Gelato is our specialty; therefore, Gelato Village is the place to be for likeminded people!
Tell me about a typical day in the shop.
A typical day starts a few hours before opening time, getting everything ready and starting the production of a fresh batch of gelato and sorbetto. Most of the days we visit the local market to buy the best fruit for our sorbetto. Then it is all about attention to details, spending time talking to our customers making them understanding what we do, training our great “conistas”, listening to what customers would like us to offer, thinking how to do things better, constantly.
A visit or a phone call to the local farm, which delivers to us what we think to be the best of the British milk and cream, is also a regular task.
The day flies away quickly and it is already time to plan for tomorrow’s challenges!
What part of your work do you like the most?
Seeing the eyes and faces of children lined up against the glass of the gelato counter, overwhelmed by what they can see. Receiving the ‘thank you’ of a happy customer.
What is your favorite flavor?
It must be Chocolate Sorbetto: it is just chocolate heaven, as simple as that!
Is there a flavor you enjoy making the most?
It is Bönet gelato, from a traditional recipe for a Piedmontese pudding: chocolate, amaretti biscuits, hazelnut (100% Tonda Gentile IGP, of course!) and a splash of rum. It tells everything about Piemonte, the Italian region where we come from.
What is your customers' favorite flavor?
It used to be vanilla, now we can proudly say it is pistachio! Many of our customers say they never tried a pistachio so good. “Of course, we reply: we only use the best pistachio from Bronte, Sicily!”
In the country where you work, is artisanal gelato known? Or is it confused with industrial ice cream?
Yes, this is our main challenge: to explain the difference between gelato and ice cream. Many still believe gelato is just ice cream in Italian.
We also have to explain that our gelato is artisan, handcrafted in our laboratory behind the counter. Too many people here have only experienced industrial ice cream!
How do you communicate the craftsmanship of your product?
Our laboratory, the way we create our gelato can be seen through the windows in the shop and from the street.
We are also working on a strong marketing campaign to communicate this very important aspect of our product.
In your opinion, what is the key to success for a gelato shop?
Being able to understand your customers’ expectations and offer something new at the same time. Being able to do something different (and better!) compared to your competitors and being able to communicate it effectively.
The ability to offer something new constantly.
How do you communicate with customers and how do you make yourself known? Do you use social networks a lot?
It involves a lot of constant face-to-face conversation. Being present in the shop is also important and we use social networks a lot: they are effective tools to communicate with both customers and other similar businesses.
How and how much has your life changed since you opened your gelato shop?
It has changed a lot. It is now a 7 days a week commitment, almost 24 hours a day!
What are your plans for the future? Do you want to open more shops?
We would like to do things at our best, which is still a long way to go…
But, of course, we will consider the idea of opening more shops in the future.
What is the message/advice that you would offer students at CGU courses or to anyone who wants to start a career in gelato?
It will be hard work, completing the course at CGU is just the starting point. There is a lot to learn and every day will bring new challenges and new things to learn. You will also need some support from other professionals. Learning will never stop! On the other hand, with a lot of passion and dedication, you will have the opportunity to make your dreams come true and to bring your personal style and input to the world of gelato.
Have a dream, believe in it: it will be hard work but eventually it will pay off!