When Scott Greenberg of Princeton used to travel to Italy he missed the gelato, the coffee and the pasta once he returned home.
Now Greenberg, master gelato maker Daniele Cavini and café manager Massimo Bocelli have partnered to launch Gelavino Gelato, which opened July 12 at the Princeton Shopping Center.
Offering at least 18 milk and fruit sorbet gelato flavors prepared fresh daily, plus coffee, espresso, semifreddi, cannoli, cheesecake and other delicacies, the emphasis at Gelavino Gelato is on using fresh, local ingredients.
Greenberg brings in eggs from his farm on Cherry Valley Road. Terhune Orchards delivers fresh fruit daily. Organic milk comes from Balford Farms in Burlington Township.
“We’re really trying to make a product of really high quality and something that tastes like Italy,” said Greenberg, a chiropractor who said he is excited about his new venture.
In the future, the café will be rotating exhibits by local artists.
Greenberg said the idea for the business began about two years ago after a mutual friend introduced him to Cavini and Bocelli, who both lived in Italy.
“We had an idea to do a gelato place and I said, 'it sounds great, but I have to taste the gelato,’" Greenberg said. “So they actually made the gelato in Italy and FedExed it on dry ice.”
In Florence, Italy, the Cavini name is almost synonymous with gelato. Daniele Cavini's grandfather, Settimio Cavini, opened Florence’s first gelateria in 1927. Daniele’s father went into the family business and Daniele himself began learning the art of making gelato as a child.
“We were living close to the gelateria, so I was always around, my father taught me all the time to help,” Daniele Cavini said. “Everything I know went through my father since I was about 10-years-old.”
The Cavini family sold the Florence gelateria after Daniele’s grandfather and father died, but the trattoria still carries the Cavini name.
Daniele Cavini, who has been a chef, gelato maker and restaurateur throughout his career, laughed as he recalled sending the gelato to Greenberg via FedEx. But despite the elaborate process, Greenberg, a self-professed “gelato freak,” was impressed.
Now Cavini and Bocelli have moved to Princeton. Cavini creates the gelato using his grandfather’s recipes. Bocelli manages the café.
“In Italy, we are full of gelaterias, but they don’t care anymore about the quality really," Cavini said. "But now here people are very happy because they know the difference now between good gelato and normal gelato. I see people smiling and doing faces and saying, ‘Wow, that’s good.’ And I can’t have this in Italy, that’s why I wasn’t anymore interested in doing gelato there.”
Cavini said gelato flavors in Italy have become exotic: basil, tomato, artichoke, even celery-gorgonzola. But he prefers simple, old-fashioned flavors like pistachio, cantaloupe, coconut, chocolate, tiramisu and raspberry.
“I prefer the old style, but it’s also because how many people are going to buy gorgonzola ice cream,” he said.
The key to make a top-quality gelato is about using fresh, all-natural ingredients, Cavini said. And it’s a hands-on process that requires constant refinement.
“It’s not cookie-cutter,” Greenberg said. “Daniele tastes it, he changes it. It’s about balancing the ingredients.”
So what’s the difference between gelato and ice cream?
According to Cavini, ice cream is an industrial-based production that began in the U.S. and became popular in the 1980s. He said ice cream is typically made in large quantities, often containing additives and dyes that help to preserve it for long periods of times if kept frozen.
Gelavino Gelato can be frozen, but is best if eaten right away, Greenberg said.
The first night Gelavino Gelato was open for business, there was also a Thursday night concert at the Shopping Center.
“We were packed,” Greenberg said. “We sold all the gelato we had.”
The café is also in discussions to offer its gelato at Osteria Procaccinii in Kingston, on Witherspoon Street and on Nassau Street, Greenberg said.
“We’re hoping to make this a household name,” Greenberg said, adding that Gelavino Gelato is planning a grand opening celebration in September.
Greenberg said they might adjust the café’s hours, now 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., to accommodate those who may want to stop by for morning coffee. The café also offers catering and can accommodate special orders.
Future additions may also include croissants, biscotti, Panini sandwiches and Italian appetizers, with Bocelli serving as chef.
But for now, it's about introducing a taste of Italy to Princeton.
“We’ve had a great response, and that’s very fulfilling for all of us,” Greenberg said.