Siblings share Italian heritage through gelato
Siblings Mary and Nick Lemmer are devoted to sharing their Italian heritage by serving rich and delicious gelato in Michigan. Named after their grandmother, their Iorio’s Gelato business now has three locations and works with a variety of food service distributors to offer artisan gelato using authentic and natural ingredients. The Milk Means More team chatted with Nick Lemmer (co-founder and cool guy behind the operations) about how Iorio’s got started and to settle a key question once and for all: What is gelato, anyway? Read below to find out!
How did the idea for Iorio’s Gelato start?
It all began back in 2004 when we started selling Italian ice. In middle school, my family and I would head to the East Coast to visit my great grandfather, an immigrant from Italy. During these visits, we spent a lot of time on the beaches eating the Italian ice sold there. Eventually, my dad bought us a cart so we could make and sell our own. We sold Italian ice everywhere from concerts to fairs to carnivals. In 2006, we decided to try something different and that was when the idea of gelato began.
Wow, it’s safe to say that you two are very entrepreneurial!
Very much so. In college, we purchased a 500 square-foot shop in Ann Arbor and hit the ground running with the gelato business. After I graduated, I wanted to keep the business going and make it even better, so I went to Italy to learn how to make authentic gelato. We created a gelato recipe that is very different from other places that sell gelato and our customers love it. We are always tweaking our gelato mix so we can serve the best-tasting product possible. Ultimately, it’s all about sharing the Italian story!
So what is gelato? Is it ice cream?!
There are few key differences between gelato and ice cream. First, gelato is made from milk instead of heavy whipping cream. Also, gelato contains 5% butterfat, which is a third the fat in premium ice cream. It is also churned at a higher temperature and a slower rate, incorporating less air and making it much denser than ice cream. Lastly gelato is served at a slightly warmer temperature than hand-dipped ice cream (10°F to 12°F compared to 5°F to 8 °F).
How would you describe the taste of gelato to someone who has never tried it before?
Gelato is much richer, denser and creamier. What I love about gelato is that the richness allows your taste buds to experience its full flavor. We like to joke that since gelato is served at a warmer temperature you don’t have to worry about a brain freeze!
Can you tell us a little more about how you are partnering with the dairy industry to create the gelato mix?
We just began our partnership with Country Dairy and we are super excited about it! We want to be engraved in the Michigan dairy scene and help our farmers grow in this state. Country Dairy is a natural fit with us. They create a custom mix for us, which serves as the gelato base. We then add the flavors in-house at our Lansing store location (Horrocks Farm Market). About 300-500 gallons of our mix is produced each week. Another fun fact is that it takes 5-10 liters of the mix and 8-12 minutes to make a batch of gelato.
That’s great! Where can we find your gelato?
We have three store locations: Ann Arbor, East Lansing and Lansing and our products can be found in restaurants, country clubs and at different festivals across the state.
How many flavors does Iorio’s offer? What are some of the unique flavors you serve?
We have many flavors and continue to innovate new ideas! The number of flavors a customer can choose from when visiting one of our stores depends on the location. Since we are planted in Italian traditions, some of our flavors include authentic Italian pistachio, stracciatella, nocciola, and innovative flavor combinations such as banana caramel praline and pomegranate champagne sorbetto.
Okay, so before we go, we have to ask: We hear you have a gelato Fiat–How did that come about?!
Yes, we do have a Fiat and I have to admit it’s pretty cool! It has a display case inside that holds about 8 flavors. We use it for catering events or for handing out product around town. We also use it when we ship product to our foodservice partners. So why a Fiat, you ask? Well, we had to stick to our Italian roots of course!