By Brian Bloom
In a community all-too-familiar with fast food fare, where creativity is a choice between white or wheat, a restaurant with a misleading name provides a fresh selection of palate pleasing sandwiches at a price that won’t bust your budget.
The Gelato Café, tucked off the intersection of Stage Road and Bartlett Boulevard in the Towne Center strip mall is as unique as its’ owners.
Egyptian immigrants Ju Ju and Victor Garada have built a business with a menu as pleasing as the owner’s personalities.
Spotless and spot-on, The Gelato Café’s menus selection is a mixture of Italian and Middle Eastern tastes married to American expectations.
The Cubanito, a generous portion of ham, turkey, salami, swiss with mayonnaise and mustard on fresh-grilled Cuban bread is priced under $7. The Di Venezia, with turkey and provolone with pesto sauce and foraccia bread is a $6.50 bargain.
In a world where too many menus sit above heat lamp-warmed entrees, and Garadas make every sandwich fresh, brushing the bread with extra virgin olive oil before grilling it warm and set upon a plate adorned with Romano lettuce, pickle, tomato and olives.
They are the American dream. The soft-spoken Victor had been a frequent visitor to America from his native Egypt. There, he spent two decades as the owner of a lingerie business. Here, with wife and sons in tow, his interests went to food.
“I had been here four times before,” Victor said, his English clear and succinct. “I loved America, I loved its opportunities.”
“And we wanted my son to be taught in America,” the vivacious Ju Ju broke in. “We wanted him to go to college here, to change his life for the better.”
In the year 2000, the pair came to Memphis locating the original Gelato Café by Home Depot across from the Wolfchase Mall. The store relocated inside the mall reducing their menu footprint before moving to Bartlett in September, 2011.
“We just had gelato in the mall,” Victor said, “and people kept saying – where are the sandwiches? We moved here and offer and sandwiches and we are asking, where are the people?”
A large gelato cone acts as a sentry at the front door, a glass case houses every Italian Ice flavor imaginable, the smooth texture a 100 percent fat-free respite from the standard American ice cream cone. Home-made Gelato cakes are available as is a unique selection of chips and drinks.
A pastry counter displays muffins, lemon cheese cakes, red velvet cakes as well as Italian desserts like Baklava, Garroli pastry and Tiramisu.
The Café caters to all kinds from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. They offer a large selection of espressos and iced coffees, fruit chillers, smoothies, salads and – of course – those remarkable sandwiches.
The Gelato Café seats less than 20 but offers expanded outdoor dining and wifi for the connected.
“I like this business,” Victor smiled. “I like dessert, I like coffee and the people in Memphis, they like food,” he laughed.
A t-shirt hangs from the wall is inscripted with the phrase I (heart) Gelato Café. Any who have tried the tantalizing treats won’t argue.
For a complete list of the Gelato Café offerings go to GelatoCafeBartlett.blogspot.com.