Steamboat Springs Gelato, which means "frozen" in Italian, is the name of a trendy frozen dessert that is considered to be the world's first ice cream.
Rumor has it that gelato, which many dessert connoisseurs consider to be richer, smoother and more intensely flavored than the average scoop of ice cream, was created for the court of Francesco de Medici in the 16th century.
It has been gaining popularity throughout Europe and some cities in the United States, such as Boston and Los Angeles.
Now two women have brought authentic gelato to Steamboat Springs.
Marcia Lynes and Patricia Kettler opened Spasso's two months ago in Ski Time Square's Torian Plum Plaza. Along with gelato, the pair's artsy cafffers coffee, fresh baked goods, light meals, and Italian wines.
But gelato is Spasso's most intriguing product, and so far reactions to the icy treat have been good.
Lynes described one family's recent visit to the cafnd first taste of gelato.
"One little boy said, 'this is so good. I'm never eating ice cream again,'" she said. "We do get really good reactions to it."
Gelato may seem like ice cream, but with one bite it's obvious that the two treats are not the same. Gelato is made with whole milk instead of cream, so it has about half the fat that ice cream does. Gelato is also more dense than ice cream: It has about 10 to 15 percent air, whereas ice cream has about 70 to 100 percent air.
"When a lot of people taste it, they think it's more decadent than ice cream," Lynes said. "It tastes richer even though it's less fatty."
Because of its intense flavor and creamy texture, gelato is usually eaten in smaller quantities with small sampling spoons.
At Spasso's, gelato is made following traditional techniques. Using fresh ingredients and making the icy dessert in small batches helps keep it fresh. In fact, it only lasts for about two or three days, so the cafs constantly replacing flavors.
In the caf small kitchen, a base of whole milk, sugar and stabilizer is mixed with fruit purees, cocoa, vanilla and other flavors that range from pistachio to white mint chocolate to chocolate hazelnut.
There's even a tiramisu flavor in which a coffee-custard gelato is layered with ladyfingers soaked in espresso and cocoa powder.
At Spasso's, no eggs are used, which means that the gelato takes after the Sicilian tradition.
The milk mixture is then whipped and frozen in the batch freezer, producing a soft and creamy dessert.
"It's frozen pleasure in a cup," Lynes said. She said that she likes all of the flavors, but that her favorites include pistachio and chocolate, as well as the caf Italian ices.
These ices are made like gelato, but water is substituted for milk. Ices typically come in fruit flavors such as lemon, pink grapefruit and watermelon.
The store is now offering 10 flavors at a time, but Lynes said eventually it might expand to offer 20 or more.
All of the flavorings used in the mixture and the machinery used to freeze the gelato are imported from Italy.
Although gelato is a big draw for customers, Kettler said that the cafs more than just the authentic ice cream.
The caf doors open at 7 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. From muffins and rolls to homemade soups, salads and sandwiches, there is a variety of food to make for a filling breakfast or a light dinner. Gelato is always a good choice for dessert, but the caflso offers cookies and other sweets.
There is a wide range of coffee drinks, a full bar with various Italian wines, tap beer and other liquor, and even Italian fizz sodas that can be made with one of dozens of Italian flavors and a scoop of gelato.
Kettler and Lynes bought the store last summer and then decided to make and sell gelato, along with other authentic Italian foods and drinks.
"We just thought to ourselves, 'what does this area need?'" Kettler said. "And gelato being the newest trend in desserts right now, we thought, 'what better to do?'"
The women had previously worked as retail designers, but Lynes grew up on a dairy farm where homemade ice cream was always in the freezer, and Kettler grew up working in her parents' bakery. So learning the art of making gelato and baked goods was not difficult for the two women.
Their artistic experiences were helpful for remodeling the cafwhich Lynes and Kettler did together. Spasso's colorful glass lamps, brightly tiled countertops and pastel wooden furniture with weathered look are meant to make the cafe friendly and inviting. Spasso's also has an outside sitting area, with overflowing flowerpots and wire chairs, where customers can imagine they are sitting outside along the stone streets of a European city.
"We wanted to do something much more lively and colorful and just fun," Lynes said. "And that's what the name means."
The word "spasso" is Italian for fun and amusement, and is sometimes translated as acting silly, Lynes said.
So far the women said that the shop has been fairly busy, but that they expect business to pick up as summer continues.
They also said the caf first two months have been mostly trouble-free. But there have been several small glitches, such as reading the English-Italian translations on the back of the imported ingredients.
"Sometimes we have to call our suppliers and ask, what does that mean?" Kettler said.