When you think of gelato you might not think of Germany, but in a city with Teutonic roots like Milwaukee, maybe a gelateria with a German connection is perfect.
La Coppa Artisan Gelato, located at Bayshore Town Center, is a partnership between Brookfield's Art Sawall and two Italian brothers – Maurizio and Alfredo Lincetto, who have a small chain of La Coppa gelaterias around the Munich area.
"They're second generation gelato makers," says Stephanie Cicero, who manages the retail operation at Bayshore. La Coppa also does catering and weddings.
"Their father moved from Italy to open a chain of gelaterias in Germany. They told me they started working in the cafes at 15. So they've been doing this their whole lives."
As a result, the gelato at La Coppa is authentic and, unlike many gelatos in America, made from scratch, not from a mix or paste.
"They actually take turns," Cicero says of the Lincetto brothers. "One comes for three months to make the gelato and then they trade places. The brothers really wanted to bring this idea to America."
The store opened in early August and offers a range of "coppe" or cups (coppa means cup in Italian) – quirky and interesting sundaes like "spaghetti carbonara" and "coppa pina colada" – along with coffee, 32 flavors of gelato available in cones and cups, gelato cakes, paninis and bruschettas.
The gelatos are made at La Coppa's own production facility in Brookfield.
Cicero says the Milwaukee location is similar to its German cousins – the European and American operations are distinct businesses; they are not officially affiliated – but not the same. A third brother helps run the German business but is not involved here.
The shops here and across the Atlantic have the same glassware and some general similarities. Among the differences are some of the flavors, says Cicero, who spent three weeks working in one of the German shops before the Bayshore location opened.
There are 32 flavors available most every day, going one better than Baskin-Robbins.
"I always think of that," admits Cicero, "but it was just coincidence."
The brothers don't speak English – though one studies the language now – and had little knowledge of American tastes. Cicero and Sawall were ready to offer advice.
"There were a few American flavors that we had to have," she says. "(The brothers) wanted a lot of the Italian flavors. 'We have to have a green apple sorbet,' and I swear no one wanted it because they think of sour apple, but their green apples are always sweet. So we were confused. But I really pushed for mint., so we have a mint chocolate chip. The owner really wanted Snickers. ... Snickers is probably the most popular flavor."
Cicero – who helped open the two Paciugo gelato locations in the Milwaukee area, as well as the Maroon Bells cafe in Bayshore – says her favorites are the passion fruit sorbetto (made from fruit and with no fat) and the pistachio gelato.
"This is the best pistachio I've ever had," she enthuses. "They use imported pistachios from Italy. The tiramisu is really good too. When we first opened, we didn't have tiramisu for two weeks, and he said, 'why don't we have tiramisu?'"
Among the flavors we sampled, we were most impressed with the Mozart – chocolate marzipan with pistachio – and dragon fruit, which tastes a bit like lavender candy.
"Everyone is really skeptical of that one because they've never heard of it," says Cicero. "But it's cute with the little kids (who say), 'I want the dragon!'"
Business boomed when La Coppa opened in late summer but has tapered off a bit as the mercury falls, says Cicero.
"When we opened – part of it was the anticipation, because people could see we were building out the space – we had lines out the door for a week," she says. "The weather was so nice then, too. Since it's cooled off, not as busy but the weekends are still big."
One allure on chillier days has been La Coppa's coffee, which is made from a special roast. The owner loved the coffee at the cafes in Germany – made from beans roasted in Italy. He wanted to recreate the flavor here, so he brought some back.
"He had Boom Brothers 'reverse engineer' the coffee too see how they made it," says Cicero. "However you would reverse roast coffee ... that's how they made it for us. He thought it was great. The Italians thought it was the same, really great. So now it is the La Coppa blend coffee."
The Lincettos and Sawall are watching the Bayshore location closely, says Cicero because the goal is to expand here to multiple locations in Wisconsin, possibly including kiosks in area malls, too.
"I'm really excited," says Cicero. "My background is gelato and coffee, which is a weird thing. I'm from Milwaukee. But I love gelato. And it's hard to find (great gelato)."
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.