When Cafe Heavenly opened its door 22 years ago, we were much different from what we are today. Our name was Heavenly Sandwiches & Smoothies and we served, well, sandwich & smoothies. Plus, we also made our own Ice Cream which certainly was better than buying 3 gallon tubs and serving that.
During those early years, we were able to take short vacations, some to other countries in Europe and saw how popular true Gelato was in those countries. There is a Gelato store on almost every corner, sometimes two or three on each block. We thought there must be a reason for the popularity. Back many years ago when I was first out of college, I visited Florence, Italy, and thought I had 'gone to Heaven’ when tasting their Gelato and Sorbetto. It was explosive in the mouth. I had never tasted anything so delicious. Ice Cream could not compare!
About 13 years ago, as we were making other small adjustments to our menu, even changing our name slightly to Cafe Heavenly, we remembered what real Italian Gelato tasted like, and thought we could improve on what we were serving. Gelato was much more marketable just by the presentation. No wonder it's the most popular dessert in the world by far. Americans weren’t quite sure what it was, but we figured we’d offer both Ice Cream and Gelato, thus trying to be different from other restaurants. The equipment needed to make true Gelato and Sorbetto is far different from equipment needed for Ice Cream, but we did our best to make a version of each. We weren't really happy with the result as it was just passable, not really offering true Gelato which is only made with very special equipment and techniques. It was OK, but not great.
We still knew we could do better and attended ‘Gelato University’ from a company called Pregel about 10 years ago based out of Concord, NC, just out of Charlotte. While there, we studied what makes Gelato - Gelato, and boy we're we impressed. We saw how quality Gelato can be so impressive with the display and the amazing flavors, all natural and sourced from Italy. But making the best quality Gelato requires very expensive equipment that we couldn't yet afford. We were able to improve what we were doing by using other techniques learned at the school, but we knew it still wasn't the best. We had to Walk before we could Run.
Kathy’s ancestors were originally from Croatia, so 3 years ago we planned a trip to that area of the world. We visited several cemeteries where we thought her family might be, and were able to find some connections, but never could actually meet any of her distant relatives. While touring there, we also visited Slovenia, a most beautiful country and even crossed over the border into Italy. All these countries serve Gelato passionately, and we saw yet again that our Gelato could be so much more.
We began looking into what it would take dollar wise to commit to only Gelato and Sorbetto, made the traditional way, using the needed special equipment to do so. This equipment involves pasteurizing equipment, special batch freezers, even blast freezers freezing to very low temperatures of -35 degrees Centigrade. VERY COLD, but needed to make the best Gelato. This equipment is very special and very expensive, but we decided that we had to make the change to ALL GELATO & SORBETTO, and forgo our regular Ice Cream. It’s impossible to have two masters.
We still need more training, so back to Gelato school, now with a Pregel facility in Ft Lauderdale for Advanced courses, then to yet another Gelato school in Greensboro, NC, for more training. We were becoming ‘Gelato Masters’.
And then we saw it, The Tonda, the most beautiful Round & Rotating Gelato case ever imaginable! We knew we had to have it for our Customers. If you haven’t yet seen it at Cafe Heavenly, when you do, you’ll say “WOW”! It’s THAT impressive! These display cases are made in Italy and are only custom produced which means one has to order it, then wait 5 months before delivery. But we HAD to have it, so we moved forward, figuring out how to afford it along with all the other special equipment needed...
While it was being manufactured, we attended a fantastic convention in Rimini, Italy, called SIGEP on Gelato, Chocolate, Espresso, Pastries and Breads. You have to hand it to the Italians. They know how to display their products. Hundreds of Gelato presentations, more instruction, more knowledge which would soon be evident at little Cafe Heavenly in New Smyrna Beach.
This is all part of the Lifestyle we experience at Cafe Heavenly and is a good example how we are always looking for that next improvement, that next enhancement to offer our Customers. It will never stop!