And everyone wants to taste a Newark entrepreneur’s Italian ice cream.
“Newark needed an ice cream store,” says Ryan German. “How can a street like Main not have a homemade ice cream shop?”
For the Newark native, the ice cream business is more than sugar and spice. It’s about hard work and dedication. German, 22, is owner of Caffé Gelato, the new Main Street hotspot whose homemade Italian ice cream is drawing legions of converts.
Outside, a maroon awning shades tables from the sun. Inside, between rustic red walls painted by German, glass display cases with hand-painted signs promise flavors such as chocolate hazelnut and pistachio. Gelato’s low-fat content makes it even harder to resist.
German first encountered gelato while learning to speak Spanish in Spain. Intrigued by its fresh taste and sweetness, he set in motion a plan to bring gelato to Newark.
Born and raised in Delaware, German attended Newark High School and graduated to the University of Delaware. While majoring in business administration and marketing, German operated a College Pro Painters franchise to keep cash in his pocket and in the bank. The franchise prospered for the two years he ran it, introducing him to the business world. For extra cash, German and his brother spent summer weekends selling sweet corn from the back of a truck on the side of Route 896 in Newark.
During his college years German traveled to several European countries. All shared one thing: a passion for gelato. It was as popular as apple pie in the States. But few Americans have ever tasted true gelato, German says. It became his goal to bring it to Main Street. It was, he believed, a perfect location – there were no other homemade ice cream shops in Newark.
German encountered many problems on his way to Main Street, however. His biggest obstacle was his age. As a 22-year-old, he struggled to be taken seriously, and banks were not enthusiastic about financing the café. German turned to the Service Corps of Retired Executives, a local nonprofit organization that helps entrepreneurs. When he met Earl Norman, a counselor for SCORE, German found what he was looking for.
Norman believed in German from the start. He provided counseling and helped in the planning. “I was convinced he would make it,” Norman says. “Ryan is one of the little bright spots that makes SCORE worthwhile.” Norman also helped Ryan secure the location. “I really wanted the old Grass Roots store.” German says. “But the location we have now at 90 E. Main St. is perfect, and I couldn’t ask for better.”
The location wasn’t always so charming. German found it in bad shape, with a massive hole in the kitchen floor. For months he and his father renovated the store, seeking professional help only for plumbing, electrical and specialized carpentry. “That’s what makes this place so special to me,” German says as he looks around at the polished counters and gleaming coffee urns. “My father and I built this place up ourselves.” Their efforts did not go unnoticed – the owner of the building waived the rent for the first three months.
After finding the perfect spot for the café, the next step was clear: find the perfect recipe for gelato. German traveled to Italy, gelato’s country of origin, and attended several trade shows, hoping to find the best recipe. At one of the shows he found his import connection. After creating the café, German had special gelato machines shipped from Italy, along with the ingredients. He continues to have them imported from Italy in order to ensure premium quality and authentic taste.
Because he had the space required to run a full kitchen, German seized the opportunity to include gourmet lunch sandwiches and exquisite dinner entrees. He called on Bryan Dehoff, former head chef at Newark’s East End Café, to create a menu that appeals to the senses. With such creations as pasta Venezia – bay scallops tossed in a red pepper cream served over spinach fettuccini – the menu has been a hit with customers who dine amid classical music. Frequent changes are made as Dehoff designs daily specials, and all soups and salad dressings are made from scratch. German takes special pride in the focaccia bread. “Other places offer focaccia, but few of them really know how to make it,” be says. “We have an authentic recipe, and you can taste the difference.” Espresso and cappuccino are perfect additions. Desserts like cannoli and cheesecake are available.
It’s the details that make Caffé Gelato stand out. For example, only four places in the United States offer the brand of coffee served there. Imported from Italy, Aromi D’ltalin emits a rich aroma. Along with the style of Italy that surrounds Caffé Gelato, German met his girlfriend, Emanuela Benedetti, on a trip overseas. She contributed many impressive touches, such as painting signs in each bin of gelato. She also painted the menu board above the front counter – a cozy touch with a bit of class.
Along the walls of the café are paintings and photographs that change the first Monday of every month as German displays works from local artists. The works are for sale, and German says about a third of those displayed have been sold.
German says he brought Caffé Gelato to Main Street to promote Newark and the other small businesses that line the street. He hopes his place will draw customers from all over Delaware, especially Wilmington. German stands out in Newark as much as his café, not only because of his age, but also because of his drive and determination, both of which are at levels that few people know at 22.
By Sarah J. Brady
Reprinted by permission, Copyright © Delaware Today