Marco Bortolini: Italian gelato business on the island of Rhodes

Marco Bortolini: Italian gelato business on the island of Rhodes

After many years of close friendship, spurred on by a burst of courage and driven by a common passion for gelato and pastries, Marco and Vaghelis decided to open up a gelato parlour on the Greek island of Rhodes. Here is the testimony of Marco Bortolini, owner of the gelato parlour Il Gelato Artigianale Italiano in Rhodes.

How and where did you learn your trade? Where did this passion come from?

The Gelato Artigianale Italiano project grew out of the determination of two friends, lovers of hand-made gelato and pastries.
Even though neither I nor Vaghelis were true professionals in the field, our passion and our perseverance, combined with our previous experience working at a gelato parlour in Florence, we managed to fulfil our desire to open a gelato parlour in Rhodes, in Greece.

Thanks in part to the school of famous master gelato craftsman Palmiro Bruschi, which helped us grow professionally and develop a quality gelato parlour, our sterling efforts have been rewarded by some excellent results, at times even beyond our wildest dreams. In fact, the project we are now working on now is to open up another outlet here in Rhodes as well as other gelato parlours elsewhere in Europe, including a top-quality pastry section, to complement the gelato.

Tell us about the Gelato Artigianale Italiano gelato parlour.

Our gelato parlour is called Gelato Artigianale Italiano – it’s located on the Greek island of Rhodes and we are open from March to October. There are four of us working at the Gelato Artigianale Italiano gelato parlour: Marco, Vaghelis, Pisty and Antonio.

Gelato Artigianale Italiano is Italian in more ways than one: the design in every store is simple and straightforward. The gelato parlour was designed to try to make each store as functional as possible, but also to provide customers with a warm, friendly atmosphere, and so we chose modern, safe equipment and harmonious colours.

We love our work as gelato craftsmen with all our hearts and most of all we love hand-made gelato, a healthy sweet food, born out of the harmony that exists between the ingredients, and blended with the skill of the craftsman. For Gelato Artigianale Italiano, making gelato means more than just doing a job, it means plunging into the Italian tradition and introducing a Made in Italy product made from a careful selection of raw materials, using fresh organic milk and fresh fruit.

Why did you open a gelato parlour in Greece?

Basically were two main reasons for deciding to open an Italian gelato parlour in Greece, and in particular on the island of Rhodes.

Firstly, my close friendship, dating back to my adolescence, with Vaghelis, my Greek business partner who studied with me in Bologna, where we spent several wonderful years together which created a close connection leading to this great friendship between us.

At a later stage, our decision to open up a gelato parlour in Rhodes was also influenced by the unique situation of the island itself, where the well-established tourist economy had protected the island from the economic crisis and where there had never been an authentic Italian gelato parlour.

What was it like starting up the business in this area?

I have to say that, compared to the complications and slowness of Italian bureaucracy, I found the Greek administration agile and efficient, which made it easier for us to open up our gelato parlour. Perhaps starting up a business in a foreign country was even easier and faster due to the fact that my business partner was a Greek national.

Can you give any advice to those looking to open a gelato parlour abroad, and in Greece in particular?

The first step, which also happens to be the most difficult thing in starting any business, is to choose the right location for your gelato parlour. Of course, it’s also crucial to work out how long the gelato selling season is, to consider the cost of renting the premises where you want to start up your gelato business and to estimate the cost and quality of the raw materials that are available locally.

I’d also suggest having a local business partner or at least a local shareholder, which can be helpful when opening up a business in a foreign location, when it comes to administrative matters and paperwork.

Marco Bortolini: Italian gelato business on the island of Rhodes
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