By Sue Moore
Vicksburg natives Piera and Bob Fagaly have opened Via Gelato, an Italian restaurant which features gelato and other delicacies. The couple comes by their Italian heritage naturally. Piera is the daughter of Jaspar Matranga and niece of Carmela Renda, both well-known as entrepreneurs in the Vicksburg area.
The Matranga family immigrated to Vicksburg in the 1960s. They opened businesses such as Jaspare’s Pizza and Renda’s Carpet and Tile store. “This is the best country in the world,” said Matranga. “You can work day and night as long as you pay Uncle Sam. It was easier to make it in the 70s and 80s for an immigrant. Lots are surprised and impressed we made it here, as that’s not normal.”
Matranga has had success in buying buildings and transforming them, so it was natural that the Fagaly family would choose to occupy one of his investments that shares a parking lot with Erbelli’s Pizzeria at 8390 Portage Road.
The new restaurant was totally Piera’s idea, her dad said. “We only had pizza places. She wanted something else. I had an uncle who was the first to sell gelato on the streets of Sicily. It’s an Italian dish, soft and creamy. Piera was intrigued by her great-uncle’s idea. She and Bob went to a Chicago school to learn how to make authentic gelato. She did her research.”
Fagaly said that all of her family is involved in the store. Her husband, Bob, makes the gelato after his regular work day is done as an IT guy for a Kalamazoo firm. Daughter Julia, a Vicksburg High School graduate in 2017, is home from Grand Valley State University and working in the store for the summer. Son Anthony is a VHS freshman and helps out when he is out of school.
“The basic difference between gelato and ice cream is that they use less heavy cream. There is milk in the mixture but it has less fat and air content. It is churned at a slower pace and becomes denser that way,” Fagaly said. They also have a small café menu with paninis which are toasted sandwiches, flatbreads and piadas, which are like a toasted Italian wrap, and salads. “It’s a combination of American and European with a concentration on Italian desserts. Her sister makes macaroons, her mom makes tiramisu and cannoli from scratch.”
Fagaly said her mom, Vincenza, is a fabulous cook. “It’s hard to beat my mom as all the recipes are in her head. She has a passion for cooking and helps us out but she is not an employee. We had to sit her down and go through each step and then write it all down.”
Although Via Gelato was opened in 2017, they decided to close for the winter when it seemed that most folks were not as interested in this warm weather treat. They reopened in April with hours of 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Sunday hours are 4-9 p.m. Phone 269-459-6745.
What’s the Difference Between Gelato and Ice Cream?
1. Gelato has less heavy cream than ice cream.
2. Gelato has less air whipped into it making it denser and giving it a stronger flavor.
3. Gelato is served at a slightly higher temperature than ice cream to allow better taste to come through rather than numbing the tongue.
4. Gelato is presented differently and served with a spade rather than scooped.