In their little shop on South First Street, Italian family Leo Silvestrini, Francesca Ferrarese and Marco Ferrarese shared — in thick Italian accents — the story of how they left their fast-paced lives behind to move to Austin and open their own gelato shop, Dolce Neve. The gelateria had its grand opening on Jan. 10 and hired three UT students to keep up with business.
Dolce Neve’s initial opening took much longer than the owners anticipated. After searching for a location for six months, brother and sister Marco and Francesca, and her fiance Leo had almost given up on finding a building in South Austin.
After months of getting the proper permits, installing equipment and decorating the shop, Dolce Neve was finally ready to open. At the grand opening, customers waited in line for their authentic Italian gelato.
“We started the grand opening at 5 o’clock but before 5 o’clock we start to see people in the line out the door and we start to serve the gelato,” Silvestrini said. “We didn’t expect all these people. We started to make the gelato and we didn’t see what was happening outside.”
The family all agreed that customers in the U.S. were much more welcoming and happier than those in Italy.
“When all the people showed, they treated us as family,” Francesca Ferrarese said. “They were talking with us, talking about their experiences in Italy, giving us advice on where to get ingredients, putting us in contact with other restaurants that they really like where we could provide them gelato. I think everyone was very much happy.”
The owners met Andrew Curtis, vice president of UT’s Italian organization Circolo Italiano and a supply chain management senior, about a year ago when they went to speak with the club. After getting to know the family, Curtis expressed an interest in working around the shop.
“The owners are really just wonderful people,” Curtis said. “I think they really have a passion for it and their mission is what gelato’s mission should be: to make people feel happy and create a sense of community.”
Dolce Neve arose from each owner’s dissatisfaction in their former career. Silvestrini was in Milan, Italy at the time, working for one of the country’s biggest computer design sites. Marco Ferrarese was a management consultant, and Francesca Ferrarese was working on her doctorate in finance.
“I started to think about what I wanted to do years from now and I realized that that part was done,” Marco said. “I kind of decided I wanted to have something mine.”
It took only a phone call from Marco Ferrarese for Silvestrini to leave his job for the world of gelato-making.
“We started talking,” Silvestrini said. “Marco one day on the phone told us, ‘Hey guys what do you think about gelato? Francesca is a great cook. We love gelato so why can we not try to do that?’ I thought, ‘yes!’”
The owners all grew up eating the frozen treat. Francesca and Marco Ferrarese fondly remember their hometown of Fabriano’s gelateria, one of the oldest in Italy.
“When were kids it was a tradition that in the evening, after dinner, all the kids went together to get gelato,” Francesca Ferrarese said.
Francesca Ferrarese missed these childhood memories so much while in Columbus, Ohio, that she went to Italy to learn how to make the dessert. After going to culinary school to master gelato-making, she worked at one of the most well know gelaterias in Italy, Gelateria De’ Coltelli.
The family prides itself on Dolce Neve’s organic and local ingredients. All of their gelato is homemade in the shop from their own recipes. The gelato-making process includes combining milk, sugar and sometimes egg yolk in the pasteurizer, cooling the mixture, adding the desired flavor and, finally, freezing it. Francesca said this handmade process creates a product richer than ice cream but with less fat content.
“What I learned there was how to make the gelato from scratch because a lot of gelato shops use premade mixes,” Francesca Ferrarese said. “Working with people who really knew how to do it in the artisanal way was very helpful.”
Silvestrini said that opening your own business is hard, but it’s worth it to see the customer’s happiness with the shop and to own and run a business for yourself.
“Now this is our business and we have no one to tell us what we can do, so we need to be able to have an agenda to know when we have to do something,” Leo said. “It’s beautiful because everything is a challenge. Sometimes it’s a big challenge, sometimes it’s a small challenge, but everything is yours.”