Via the panino, pizza and cappuccino, Italian culinary culture long ago arrived in Milwaukee, but not always in the most authentic fashion. For example, plenty are now selling frozen treats here that are inaccurately called "gelato." Now, however, there's a real expert on the scene.
"Beginning in 1947 my father was an artisan gelato maker and he made his gelato using the antique tools of the trade," says Marina Degiovanni, who opened the 1,575-sq. ft. Golosi Gelato Cafe at 162 E. Wisconsin Ave. in Oconomowoc in February.
"The dream of a gelateria was came from my father, but I also have a sweet tooth for gelato and sweets -- but not too heavy or too sweet -- in general."
Hence the name. Goloso is an Italian adjective that describes someone with a sweet tooth.
Degiovanni and her family hail from Casale Monferrato and landed in Milwaukee when her husband began working at Zerand (owned by Casale-based Cerutti Group) in 1998. As a student at Waukesha's Rose Glen Elementary, Degiovanni's daughter Valentina began a pen pal program between her class here and her former class in Italy that continues today, even though Valentina is now in high school.
As a means for overcoming the culture shock and homesickness, Degiovanni rediscovered the culinary traditions of her family and her hometown, she says.
"Being so far from my home (and) from my traditions, re-awoke in me the memories and flavors of my town," she wrote in a manifesto that will appear in Golosi's brochure. "Finding typical Italian gastronomic products in this big country allowed me to cook in the Italian taste and style, sparking the memories of gelato, and coupling them with the art and visual creativity of the artisan artist."
Like anyone who treasures traditions -- especially culinary ones -- Degiovanni knows that authenticity takes dedication and hard work. She grew up knowing that real gelato was no different.
"Making gelato (in my father's day) was a long, difficult and laborious process and therefore few children at the time could enjoy this luscious treat," she recalls. "I was fascinated by the mystery of how my father made gelato and on weekends it was a treat for my sister and I to visit his small laboratory and to taste the few flavors that were transported by the traditional gelato carts.
"Large-scale industrial production of gelato made it very difficult for artisan gelato makers to compete with the low prices of the industrial competitors and my father was forced to abandon this art and passion."
Degiovanni is dedicating herself, therefore, to the art and passion of making artisan gelato. There will be no mixes, no powders and no ice cream presented as gelato. She will make it all by hand in Golosi's kitchen, just like her father did 60 years ago in Casale. Gelato lovers and the generally curious will be able to watch her work in her visible kitchen.
Golosi also serves traditional Italian espresso drinks, Italian panini, soups and baked goods like morning pastry and cakes.
Customers will also be able to enjoy 36 flavors of gelato -- including diet, soy and warm versions -- in an authentic atmosphere, as Degiovanni has ordered her furniture, gelato-making equiment, signage and more from back home. Two technicians traveled from Italy to help install equipment and set up Golosi, Degiovanni says.
"My place is 100 percent 'Made in Italy,'" she says. "You will feel like you're entering a gelateria in Italy. We have imported the city's coat of arms from Casale Monferrato. It is hand-made from tufo (the local stone upon which Casale and the entire Monferrato area is built) and handmade bricks. As you can see, my Casale is always in my heart. We're bringing with us a piece of Italy, but above all, our Monferrato."
The project is a big undertaking for Degiovanni, but she's excited and ready to go.
"I'm very emotional about it," she says, "but at the same time a little frightened because for me this is a new experience. I've always worked with the public but this time I'm the owner!"
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.