THIS BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT SHINES ON
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When he was 14, Gio Pizzale began working as a dishwasher at That Little Place by the Lights. For most high school kids, it would have been just one of many summer or part-time jobs on their way to somewhere else. But for Gio, it became something much bigger.
In November 2015, Loris and Annie Buttus, owners of That Little Place, asked Gio to become one of their partners and, in May 2016, That Little Place Italian Café, Gelateria and Market opened facing River Mill Park. Fast forward a year-and-a-half and Gio is now its proud owner under a new banner: Affogato Café + Gelato.
The café is named for one of its specialty drinks—an affogato (Italian for drowned) is a scoop of gelato topped with a shot of hot espresso. When you can’t decide between coffee or dessert, affogato is just the thing.
And visitors to the café will have a delectable selection of gelato to choose from. In his time at That Little Place, Gio learned the secrets to making artisan gelato from Loris and he’s since expanded his knowledge with some advanced courses.
Making gelato is a science, says Gio. “The calculations need to be balanced to be sure it’s not too melty or too hard, and then its just experimenting with the flavours.”
Now 20, he is putting those gelato skills to good use, with plans to feature 24 flavours at a time in the summer months and a smaller selection in the winter. Favourites like nocciola (hazelnut), bacio (chocolate hazelnut), lemon, mango, and strawberry will almost always be available, with special offerings like pistachio and blood orange making an appearance now and then. Gio’s mother, Sandra’s, favourite, and one that goes well in affogato, is puffo—a Smurf-blue gelato that she says tastes like the icing on an ice cream cake.
Gio supplies That Little Place By The Lights with gelato for the restaurant’s dessert menu, and he has plans to make gelato cakes and gelato pops. There are even vegan gelato options.
“We have lots of gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan options,” says Sandra, who has joined Gio in the venture as accountant, along with Karen Oliver as the cafe’s creative mind and Jonathan Clarke making specialty sandwiches. “I’m a health nut. It was really important to me to offer all-natural, clean products with no chemicals.”
In addition to gelato, affogato, and Jonathan’s sandwiches, the café also has a variety of specialty coffees and desserts, as well as a selection of Italian products, gift ware and gift baskets. Trays of sandwiches and desserts are available for those looking for catering options for meetings.
In the future, Affogato hopes to become Huntsville’s go-to coffeehouse for work or play, especially in the evenings when they’ll have live music in a lounge area that’s still under construction.