Vasavasa is a hand-made gelato shop in the heart of Milan, at the corner of via Cadore and via Spartaco. Its name is clear enough on the sign, but its presence is discreet and its atmosphere refined, welcoming, and positive, just like the people who founded it, who shared a common passion.
It might be an overused word, but passion is no exaggeration when it comes to outlining how Vasavasa manages to turn a dream into reality, more than into a business opportunity. And it's no coincidence that in Sicilian dialect, “vasavasa” means “kiss kiss”, as Marco Trucco and Massimiliano Di Vincenzo, two of the founding partners tell us; they love the island of Sicily and what they call the “baroque elegance” in the Sicilian approach to life, pleasure, and taste. Marco and Max have many projects on the go, not just gelato, which is maybe why the energy they have invested in this project is so tangible and engaging.
Why did you choose to become “gelato entrepreneurs”?
Marco: I've always been in love with good cooking and the pleasure of sharing it with guests, but I couldn't afford to start a restaurant. So, the idea of a hand-made gelato shop came to me, and one day I decided: I’m going to do it. Obviously, it didn't happen immediately; like with everything, training is indispensable, so first of all I bought a gelato-making machine and I started experimenting...
Max: (laughing) He's the alchemist!
Marco: Well, it took me some time, and it was important to learn from a text by one of the undisputed masters of gelato-making: Luca Caviezel. I believe that no other text is as comprehensive for someone who wants to approach this world. Then I started to visit the main trade fairs, where I met people working in this field, professionals who passed on their knowledge and enthusiasm to me. I also bought a vertical sorbetière and created our first flavors, which still sell well in the shop today.
Vasavasa has 10 milk-based flavors, a few sorbets – made exclusively with seasonal fruit – and Sicilian-style granitas. How long did it take you to start up Vasavasa?
Max: Marco had already opened a gelato shop in Turin; I came about a year and a half later, and we agreed right away on the direction to take.
Marco: The whole process lasted about 8 months, from taking the decision to selling the first cone, starting in September and opening at the start of the season, but I have no doubt that it could be done a lot quicker.
Did you come up against any obstacles?
Max: Finding a location wasn't easy because commercial sites aren't always available, and when they are, you often have a high fee to pay to take over the lease. And then regulation issues, which are important and can't be avoided, and it takes time to comply with them. But with a bit of patience and a lot of goodwill, you can achieve everything.
Did you spend more than you predicted?
Marco: Yes, but in our case it was a conscious decision of ours. Vasavasa came from the desire to create value; we didn't want a hand-made gelato shop, but our gelato shop, one that would reflect who we are. Personally, I love to being in charge of projects that involve other people, thinking and acting big, achieving more than just financial success. And then from a strictly strategic point of view, for us Vasavasa has to become a brand; this requires more effort for communication and obviously, it also means investing money.
Vasavasa will soon have another shop in Milan and one in Paris. In your opinion, does it still make sense to open just one gelato shop?
That’s subjective too: in our case, which at least as far as I'm concerned (editor's note: Max nods too) is a life-long project, it didn't make sense.
Marco: I like to travel, to get to know the world, and I would like my children to experience life outside Italy as well. What always astonishes me is how what makes the “Made in Italy” brand stand out all over the world is sometimes the prerogative, in business terms, of foreign companies. An example? If I say “world coffee” you think of Starbucks. I would like to take advantage of the great opportunity that being a “gelato entrepreneur” gives me: being an Italian who values what's really "Made in Italy", anywhere in the world. And at the same time, to gain an advantage from it in cultural terms.
So are there any other Vasavasa flags on the world map?
(they smile) There are some ideas… we're not ruling anything out, put it that way.
We leave behind Marco “the alchemist” and Max, who enjoy spending time with their customers, telling stories about their passion for Sicilian gelato and for their profession. Vasavasa is a convivial place, a place to enjoy good food and meeting people, and when you leave, you're definitely a good deal happier.