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Urbino Project 2015 | April 15, 2024

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A Family Gelateria - Urbino Project 2015

Kaitlin Kling
Mother and son scoop a business out of a tough job market.

URBINO, Italy – The bells from the Ducal Palace echo through the empty Renaissance streets as the bell tower strikes eight. While the city is still waking, Nikolas Zazzaroni sets foot in his shop, Officina Del Gelato. All the lights are off except one, but morning sunlight fills the gelateria.

Nikolas, 25, wearing his signature “iGelato” t-shirt, turns on the radio, and glides through the kitchen starting the process of making Italy’s famous milk-based version of ice cream.

Nikolas and his mother, Eleonora Zazzaroni, are the owners of the relatively new and trendy gelateria called Officina Del Gelato—Puro & Bio Urbino. Although it has been open only a year – marking its first anniversary on June 4 – the Zazzaronis have managed to create a successful business. Eleonora says that she and her son opened the business because the job market in Urbino was tough, and she wanted to help her son succeed. They both spend ample time working at the shop.

Close up of gelato topped with figs.

Close up of gelato topped with figs.

The organic elements used in the gelato come directly from a larger company called Puro & Bio, the sole provider of organic ingredients for Officina Del Gelato. Officina Del Gelato is also the only Puro & Bio shop in Urbino, a policy of the supplier that cuts down on direct competition for the individual owners that sell Puro & Bio gelato in any given city.

Most days Nikolas comes in early in the morning to start making the gelato, and typically around midday, Eleonora or Nikolas’s younger brother Mattia will come in and take over the afternoon shift.

“Someone in the family is always working,” says Nikolas.

Mattia, 20, sometimes works alongside his older brother, but they don’t always get along, so they tend to work different shifts. When they get home, Nikolas says, it’s open season for bickering.

Several other employees help out at Officina Del Gelato. One is Maria Chiara, 17, who is a good translator for English-only customers, since Eleonora speaks little English.

Maria often works the night shifts because they prefer to have a woman working during closing so the store is cleaned properly. “My brother and I clean too fast and don’t do the job well enough,” Nikolas says.

Stacked gelato cones.

Stacked gelato cones.

Gelato sales do well in the spring and summer, but decline as the months get colder. Eleonora and Nikolas anticipated this. Starting in October, they swap out the gelato that fills the large humming refrigerator, and in its place they store chocolates.

Eleonora is also an exquisite baker. She makes cakes for special occasions such as weddings, birthdays and baptisms and sells them at the store. Nikolas makes cakes as well, but bashfully admitted that his mother’s cakes are a bit better than his.

Nikolas acknowledged that their location, a five-minute hike up one of the steep hills from the center of town, where several other gelatorias are located, is a challenge for their newer business. But they remain upbeat.

“The customers that come to our shop know the quality of our ingredients,” Nikolas says, “and that is why they keep coming back.”


Video (By Kaitlin Kling & Rachel Dale)