Artisanal Gelato

Affresco helps gelato craftspeople perfect and market their product.

In Italy summers are pretty hot and it stays nice and warm on most evenings. After spending the day evaluating so many products in the new Campomaggi collection, I was ready to chill with a nice gelato. Actually, that night I was in the mood for an even more refreshing granita and decided to try a new ice cream shop with Emi and Chiara. Sidebar: after we arrived in Italy we quickly discovered that Marco would also like to have gelato and he gets really, really upset that he can’t have any yet so we waited until he fell asleep.

We went to Affresco, which turns out to be one of many independently owned gelaterie that draw on the experience of renowned Italian gelato craftspeople and a team of people who design the store layout.

Affresco helps gelato craftspeople perfect and market their product.
Affresco helps gelato craftspeople perfect and market their product. I tried only one location where I noticed a clear difference in the quality of the gelato.

When I finally (the line was long) got my granita (shaved ice) all menta (mint) I was astounded. I was quickly reminded, yet again, of the difference between a mass-produced product and one carefully refined by people who care. I was expecting the usual crushed ice with mint flavored sugary syrup. Maybe they were able to trick me with a syrup that finally tasted like it was made from fresh mint leaves. I have lots of mint in my yard and what I got tasted exactly like it and I am convinced that it was actually made from fresh mint leaves. The ice was also finely crushed and the product was very enjoyable and refreshing: exactly as I had envisioned.

This granita alla menta (mint) tastes like real mint. I have mint in my yard and I know what it should taste like. This was the first time that I found a perfect match.
This granita alla menta (mint) tastes like real mint. I have mint in my yard and I know what it should taste like. This was the first time that I found a perfect match.

This is the experience that I want to provide to my customers. When a product is made by people who care enough to seek and use the best ingredients for their work, and use skills developed over a lifetime aided by generations of refinements, the outcome is usually a notch or two better than the mass produced imitation.

Why Only Bags Made in Italy?

Italian Artisan whose craft is an extension of his soul.

At Marcopoloni, we care about products that express the artisan’s genius and creativity. We expect to find that anywhere in the world, but, since I am Italian, Italy has been a major focus for our searches. It helps that amazing leather craftsmanship abounds in Italy.

But I am sure that you are already well aware that the opposite is also true: many Italian companies have taken advantage of the fact that only a percentage of the final product has to actually be made in Italy to get the “Made in Italy” label. That’s unfortunate because, as I have read on many forums about bags, customers no longer associate quality with an Italian product.

When I was a teenager, I was fortunate to travel a lot throughout every corner of Italy and to most Mediterranean countries. It was at that time that I started appreciating leather craftsmanship and the production process of leather goods. What I saw then has grown into my passion and is what I am trying to preserve now. When you you shop for one of our bags from Italy you don’t get a cheap bag that tries to profit from its Italian label. You get a bag that I am pretty sure you will have a chance to like because the artisan who made it put his experience and pride behind it.

When Emi and I got married in Portovenere, Italy, in 2007, we stopped by the leather shop in the picture. I probably do not need to explain that his craftsmanship was amazing. We tried to buy from him later but it was too difficult to communicate from the States. It is my unfulfilled dream to go back on a future anniversary and fill up my suitcases. Because that is our mission: to help you rediscover the soul that was infused into a product at the hands of an inspiring artisan.

True craftsmanship results in products with a soul.

Preserving the Way of the Artisan

I listened to this segment on Marketplace and was rather surprised. I did not know that I could be so ignorant about the issue that has inspired my business: preserving the way of the artisan.

Jeff Tyler finds out how even artisans from Zambia suffer from the competition of cheaper products coming out of China and Vietnam. The story is surprising to me because I thought that wages in Zambia were very low, and to think that one can make a basket and ship it to Zambia for less than the local artisan seems hard to believe.

Do China and Vietnam have robotic plants making baskets? As far as I know their factories are very labor intensive. So exactly how much, or how little, do they pay their workers? Is it possible that workers in the world’s second economy earn less than the workers in Zambia?