Stephano Marcotulli is a busy man.
Walk in to his gelateria on Via dei Coronari and you might see him hard at work before you even step in the door, visible through the storefront window where he is slicing peaches or plucking basil. If he’s not there, he’s likely just inside, serving customers with a friendliness it’s hard to envision maintaining be it not for sheer love of your craft.
A craft is precisely what Stephano’s work at Gelateria del Teatro appears to be. Since opening the shop 9 years ago he’s been the owner, pastry chef, and gelato visionary. His gelato is not just a gorgeous array of flavors both classic and innovative, a quiet spot to escape the crowds of Piazza Navona, or a rarely faithful adherence to the authentic gelato-making process. It is, if anything, a dedication to the flavors of Italy.
Each ingredient Stephano selects as the main character of one of his gelati—white peaches, pistachios, almonds, melons, lavender—is obtained from the region of Italy to which it is special. There are no additives, preservatives, or chemicals; all ingredients are organic, used only in season, and, most importantly, from Italy.
“We select ingredients from wherever they are the best—and Italy is the best,” says Stephano, translated by employee Igor Vasiliu.
Igor delivers the declaration with a coy smile. He’s proud of Italy, just as he is proud of the way Gelateria del Teatro showcases what they feel to be its unparalleled produce.
While the majority of the carefully cultivated ingredients are channeled into an extensive offering of traditional flavors, Stephano also produces a range of sophisticated, innovative combinations. Subtly layered fruits and herbs combine for a tasting experience which is curiosity-inducing, surprising, and deeply satisfying. Ricotta almond fig, lavender white peach, and garden sage raspberry are a few favorites.
While Stephano’s hands never cease working as he waits on countless customers and hand produces ever-fresh batches of gelato, his passion seems to materialize through his willingness to share about his work. As I saunter in around 4 pm one day, I introduce myself amid the growing line. I tell him how enamored I am with his gelato and ask if there is a time I could return to ask him some questions. He warmly invites me to return at 5:30. When I do, his shop has become no less busy.
Even though new customers continue to flow through the door, he does not hesitate to make seemingly non-existent time to talk to me. There are no empty tables—no matter, he welcomes me into his kitchen. Enlisting the help of Igor to translate, he answers all that he can. He tells me about his work and his process, chuckling warmly and looking searchingly to Igor when he can’t find the English word he is looking for. All of my nerves at conducting my first interview with a language barrier are dispelled by the sheer happiness of the work environment Stephano maintains in his gelateria.
Keeping our interview brief, so that he may return to the apricots he was preparing to transform into some sweet concoction, I leave him with one final question.
“What is it about gelato that is so special to Italy and its people?” I ask.
He ponders. After a moment, he seems to understand.
“Because gelato is only handmade. We give our hearts to create this ice cream.”
Via dei Coronari 65
Lungotevere dei Vallati 25