Marcello Mauri spoke in rapid Italian to the vacationing couple from Rome who entered his gelateria on Broadway last week.
After making them espresso in tiny demitasse cups, he offered them his laptop so they could check their e-mail.
That focus on service is one of the singularities that owner Mauri hopes will distinguish his new gelato shop, Tutto Amore, from a gallon of frozen confectionery competitors.
The store opened last Friday after a long construction period, in the same location where Baskin Robbins once held reign.
Tutto Amore’s competition is especially fierce: Golden Spoon Frozen Yogurt is across the street and many other stores offering yogurt, gelato and ice cream are all located within walking distance.
A Coldstone Creamery was proposed in the space, but was turned down by the City Council, which prizes individuality and uniqueness in downtown shops. Tutto Amore filled the bill.
Mauri, originally from Seveso, Italy (near Milan), also hopes to differentiate his shop with his family recipe, created more than 30 years ago by his father.
There are now more than 100 stores worldwide affiliated with the family business; Mauri himself has worked to develop stores elsewhere in Europe, Dubai and China.
He moved to California last May, after helping develop a now-popular gelateria in the Bay Area.
That store’s then-production manager, Tim Lin, was trained by Mauri.
The two later joined forces and became co-owners of Tutto Amore; after a visit to Laguna last Thanksgiving, they decided to open a shop here.
The duo added Mauri’s thoroughly Italian sister Melinda into the mix two months ago when she came to the States.
The shop is an airy, modern space; former art student Melinda, now the gelateria’s manager, decorated the bottom of the freezer case with a mosaic design, and the furniture and décor were imported from Italy.
Flat-screen televisions broadcast the shop’s offerings overhead.
Gelato, Italian ice cream, is made from milk, sugar and flavorings. Compared to normal ice cream, it is composed of less than 35% air, which makes it more dense, with a much more intense flavor.
It also contains less fat than normal ice cream; only 4-8%, compared to 10-18% in normal American ice cream. Its consistency is semi-frozen.
Contrary to a popular urban legend, gelato doesn’t contain gelatin; the word means “frozen” in Italian.
Tutto Amore makes their gelato fresh daily, in an hours-long process that starts early in the morning.
“It’s very difficult to make gelato,” Marcello Mauri said; his sister concurred.
“You have to have a passion,” Melinda said. “Every day, it must be the same quality.”
Another traditional aspect of the gelato is that it is decorated while it sits in the freezers, topped with chocolate drizzles or bits of the ingredients it contains.
“When you do that, people see that you love what you are doing,” Melinda said; she is responsible for making the designs, and sees them as being a parallel to Laguna’s own focus on art.
“For me, when you make gelato, it’s got to be art, too,” Marcello said.
A close variant, sorbetto, is made without dairy ingredients, and contains various fruits. Tutto Amore offers gelato, sorbetto and two yogurt-based gelati.
Classic gelato flavors available at Tutto Amore include nocciola (hazelnut); cioccolato (chocolate); caffe (coffee); pistacchio (pistachio); stracciatella (fior de latte and chocolate); noce di cocco (coconut); and Tiramisu.
Sorbetto, made up of just ice and fruit, comes in flavors like plum, pineapple and pear.
In addition to their cup- or cone-based offerings, Tutto Amore makes custom semifreddo (half-cold) gelato cake, and has its own whipped cream and espresso machines. (Naturally, the store only serves Italian coffee).
As the owners hope to turn their space into a hangout for locals, the store has no take-out option for beverages. Bottled Italian waters and cane-syrup-based Coca-Cola are poured into glasses before being served.
Mauri hopes to expand his idea into other shops, but for now he’s content to build the brand here in Laguna.
“Because Laguna is a very European city, I think,” he said.
Tutto Amore is at 247 Broadway St. For more information, call (949) 715-9249 or visit www.tuttoamoregelato.com.