G.S. Gelato Has Never Strayed from the Italian Way
Simona Faroni and Guido Tremolini brought a part of their homeland to the coast
We were young, and we were bold …”
For some, those words could connote regret or precede a story of failure so great that it forever ruined a life.
But hearing them now, I detect no hint of disappointment hidden in the corners of the phrase, nothing hanging in the air other than matter-of-factness as a woman in silky-smooth voice tells the tale of her sweet journey to success.
The passage was not without trials and rocky roads, but it was one that gave her all the reason in the world to smile and insist that sometimes the dream really is worth the risk.
She is given to the kind of passion that conquers obstacles.
Naturally, the Italian accent doesn’t hurt her case. In fact, it makes it all the more romantic.
It gives context to the degree of adventurousness that she — as someone young, bold and deeply in love — embraced when she took the leap that would forever change the course of her life and open up a whole new world.
Italians, by their nature, are a passionate people, a people driven by heart and determination in ways that pragmatic Americans often don’t understand.
We think, while they feel. They love without reservation. They celebrate life. They burn with passion. And they act boldly.
This intrepid Italian woman might never have found herself facing such an adventure without a partner by her side.
The right partner. And for Simona Faroni, that man was Guido Tremolini.
The story starts simply enough: Two young lovers come to America on vacation and fall in love with the beaches of the Emerald Coast.
It’s a familiar tale, and one that has happened time and time again, so much so that it’s dismissed without much thought.
It’s what didn’t happen that advances the story.
“During our visit, we noticed there was no gelato! In Italy, there are gelato stands on every street corner, and it’s a part of the culture,” Faroni said.
The vacuum stood out to the couple, and they recognized it as an opportunity to turn their love of gelato into a business and bring something special from their homeland to people who had yet to experience one of Italy’s greatest gifts.
“We had nothing, and we didn’t even speak the language. But we were determined to make this dream a reality and offer authentic Italian gelato to this beautiful country,” Faroni explains.
In 1995, the fact that anyone other than Italian transplants and well-traveled Americans had never even heard of gelato, much less tasted it, was both a complication and an opportunity.
It would make their plan all the more unusual and intriguing, but it would also challenge ice cream-loving Americans to step outside of their comfort zone.
Would anyone try it? Would it become popular, or would it fail?
The key to it all was creating the product in a thoroughly authentic way, from the equipment used in producing it to the ingredients that were used.
After all, the point was to bring a true taste of Italy to Americans, and that couldn’t be done if what they were offering didn’t truly taste the way it should, with the creaminess, consistency and richness of flavor that make gelato such a delicious treat.
The course seemed clear enough, and in an ideal world it would have been: Import machinery from Italy, set up shop and start production.
But as they began to bring their vision to life, Faroni and Tremolini soon learned that dreams in America can sometimes be strangled by red tape.
“We imported our equipment from Italy, which was sold to us by the leading manufacturers of gelato equipment,” Faroni said.
“But at final inspection, we were told the equipment was not approved, and we were faced with two options: either buy new equipment, or move back to Italy. In order to create gelato with pure authenticity, we needed certain important components, mainly the equipment from Italy. So, at the time, there was really not much hope.”
But Faroni and Tremolini knew they couldn’t give up when they had only just begun. They started to learn English. They went to school at night and then found some local engineers who were willing to help them.
“We went to the Food and Drug Administration, and they pretty much opened up a branch just for us, helping us make the necessary modifications so that they could approve the equipment,” Faroni recalled.
After 14 months of hard work, the equipment was approved by the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and G.S. Gelato became the first manufacturer of authentic, artisanal gelato and sorbet in the United States.
Over the past 20 years or so, the small operation that set up production in Fort Walton Beach has become a go-to manufacturer of desserts for countless labels whose names line the freezer shelves of grocery stores all over the country.
It’s an impressive operation, with testing facilities to develop new flavors and new recipes, manufacturing plants, packaging and shipping facilities.
There’s hardly any sign remaining of the early years of G.S. Gelato — the G for Guido, the S for Simona. But what is still there are the important things at the very heart and soul of the business: the passion and love.
And despite the fact that Faroni and Tremolini could easily have sacrificed their foundational principals in the interest of cutting costs and increasing production, they remain committed to using the very best Italian ingredients and following the Italian way of doing things.
It’s the secret to their success, and the reason that they have become a market leader.
They have won countless awards and accolades including being named one of Florida’s “Top 50 Companies” by GrowFL in 2018 as well as being well named one of Inc. 5000’s fastest growing private companies for three years in a row in addition to winning various flavor and innovation awards.
And the woman with the silky-smooth Italian voice who dared to dream? She’s won numerous awards for her role as an influential female leader in industry.
The couple at the heart of it all might no longer be quite so young, but they’re clearly still young at heart and in love with the work they do.