Italian dessert descends upon Joplin skyline, not waistline

David Royer, owner of Gelato Primo, loads a machine with chocolate almond gelaGelato Primo, loads a machine with chocoto, one of 19 current flavors offered.

David Royer, owner of Gelato Primo, loads a machine with chocolate almond gelaGelato Primo, loads a machine with chocoto, one of 19 current flavors offered.

T.J. Gerlach

Italian gelato has made its way to Joplin with some help from a Missouri Southern instructor and her husband.

Gelato Primo on Fourth Street off Range Line Road opened Jan. 13 after about four months of preparation.

In 2003, Dr. Linda Hand, professor of mathematics, was on sabbatical in Europe. During her last eight days in Europe, she and her husband went to Rome, and every day they ate gelato.

Hand said her husband, David Royer, was working for his father at the time. After eating the gelato in Italy, Royer decided to open a gelato shop in Joplin.

“I started hunting down places that wholesaled products, and we wanted to be authentic,” Royer said. “I found a place in Baltimore and went up there for a week’s training on the equipment.”

Hand said the Baltimore company, Aromi d’Italia, sells all authentic mixes and machines imported from Italy.

“[Gelato is] basically an Italian frozen dessert, similar to ice cream,” Royer said. “The FDA will not let you call something ice cream unless it has at least 10 percent butter fat and gelato does not. That’s kind of the big selling point – less fat. Most premier ice creams have 18 to 20 percent butter fat.”

He said the cream-flavored gelatos have between four and seven percent butterfat and the fruit-based gelatos have no fat since they are not made with milk.

“As far as being healthy, they do have calories, just like regular ice cream because of the sugar that is used,” Royer said. “But the fat content is really a lot less, and I think that is what really gives gelato the better flavor. When you eat something, the butter fat blocks your taste buds. So the less you have of that in something, the more of the flavor you’re going to get.”

Royer said he spent most of 2004 looking for a location and had two prospects fall through before finding the current location.

The drawings were started in September, and the work began in November.

Gelato Primo also has a soup and salad bar that is all-you-can-eat or can be ordered to go. It also serves Seattle’s Best Coffee and Tazo teas, both brands from Starbucks.

Royer said he has had a pretty good response so far, including people of all ages and several repeat customers.

“Most of the business we’ve had so far has just been word-of-mouth,” he said.

He said he began advertising in The Joplin Globe on Jan. 25-27.

“I think the response is going to be really well once the weather warms up,” Royer said. “Our soups sells on the soup and salad bar have really been good due to the cold weather.”

Gelato Primo has 19 flavors right now, but will soon have 24 flavors.