CLINTON — Maria Macrina is just a simple second-generation Italian-American girl from Sherrill who’s family taught her the value of Italian culture and traditions which she said consists mainly of family, faith and food...including gelato, which she is bringing to the residents of Clinton.
Actually, to be exact, she brought it to Clinton in 2016, by way of a food push-cart at the Thursday village green farmer’s market, but business has been so good she’s opening a store at 17 College St. in late April.
“I always felt like I was headed to a store,” Macrina said. “I just wanted to systematically grow the business. I started with what I could and tried to build on what I had done each year.”
Part of that building process was placing some of her gelato in the a cold case at Utica Coffee Roasting Co. at 1 West Park Row in Clinton and she feels that helped her to get people more familiar with her product. The Utica Coffee employees loved it too.
“Maria’s gelato is absolutely phenomenal,” said Aaron Nelson, cafe manager at Utica Coffee/Clinton location.
A graduate at Brown University, Macrina has been in love with the idea of owning her own business for a number of years now. At first she thought she might want a small bakery...but then a turn of events brought her to where she is now.
“I studied abroad for a year, traveling to Bologna Italy,” Macrina said.” And as luck would have it, my apartment was just around the corner from this little gelato shop named Sorbetteria Castiglione and their gelato wasn’t just good, it was amazing. You see, what you have to understand about gelato is in order for it to the best it can be, it has to be fresh. That’s the key.”
Macrina said she wants the shop to be as authentically Italian as possible. With that in mind she intends to serve expresso as well, but not regular coffee. Expresso will also give her a chance to feature a desert named “”Affogato” which is Italian for “drowned”, yes, drowned. But hold on, all will become clear.
“You take a scoop of gelato and then you pour expresso over it,” Macrina said. “Trust me, it’s really good.”
Most people she said opt for the vanilla gelato when they use the expresso, but you can use any flavor you fancy. Hazelnut expresso is terrific, and chocolate expresso is really, really good. She admits it gets a little soupy pouring the hot coffee over the frozen dish, but that’s the point, it’s delicious.”
She said that even though she and her cart traveled around for three years working different sites in Whitesboro, New Hartford and Utica, along with Clinton, she found the the village of Clinton to be very supportive of her and her business.
“I wanted to stay local,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to Syracuse, or anywhere too far from home. There are a lot of walkers here, and shoppers and it just felt like Clinton was the right fit.”
Macrina said she is not trying to sell anything to anybody who won’t enjoy it. She wants people in her shop who are looking for a pleasurable new experience or have had her gelato before and want to have it again. By her own admission she wants fun, happy people to visit her and her store.
“If I have to try and sell gelato to you, then you’re not my customer,” she said. “I mean after-all at the end of the day, it’s just fancy ice cream and I think everybody can relate to ice cream. It’s a simple small thing that should brighten anybody’s day and I like the idea of creating it, and being in charge of it.”
You can order your gelato in small or large portion cups. A small is four ounces and a large about six ounces. A small will cost you $4 and a large will cost you a dollar more. She said she will also be serving gelato in cones. But not just any cones, handmade Bologna-style wafer cones. Those too will be as fresh as possible.
Not being to emphasize how important keeping the gelato fresh enough, Macrina explained how her product will be kept in a specially cooled counter that’s being shipped from Italy. It has a special coolant in that controls the fluctuations of temperature keeping them very minimal and is sealed off with no air circulation around it. It keeps the gelato as fresh as possible.
Also available will be gelato popsicles and a few local bakers will be making some pastries for her to offer as well. Brioche buns will be available which she said you can stick gelato in the middle of the bun and that’s what the construction workers eat in Italy for breakfast.
Macrina plans a soft opening just after Easter and hopes to be in full swing by the first weekend in May. Until then she has more work to do pulling it all together and staying focused on her game plan. She said she has a mindset that keeps her from becoming distracted and her would like to impress upon any potential customer this is a happy place.
“This is positive environment with open doors and we welcome anyone who wants to try it.” she said. “This is not a pretentious business this is a happy business and should be a happy place. This is my attempt to bring authentic Italian treats to the U.S. and it’s my hope people will enjoy it.”
She also said she has a way of always staying positive, it might sound silly to some, but it works for her, and she said it with a broad smile on her face.
“I just stay in the gelato bubble,” she said.