Stephanie Reitano, BBA ‘92
Owner, Capogiro Gelateria and Capofitto Forno Pizzeria
Hometown: Howell, N.J.
“Mangia!”: Surrounded by tasty treats each day, Reitano says she does not give in to temptation – at least when she’s around the gelato. The same can’t be said about the savory items on her menu. “I can’t go a single day without eating a 12-inch margherita pizza,” she said. “I eat one every day. I haven’t met a pizza I don’t like.”
A cookbook changed Stephanie Reitano’s life.
Before receiving “Marcella Hazen’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking,” a gift from her husband John, Reitano admittedly didn’t know her way around the kitchen. Her love affair with cooking began that day, in 1996. It manifested in a trip in 2001 with John to Italy, where she tasted gelato for the first time.
“It’s denser, richer, and creamier than ice cream, and lower in fat and calories,” Reitano said, recalling that trip through Capri with a smile. “And to be honest, I don’t even like ice cream. But I tasted it, half-hazelnut and half-chocolate hazelnut, and I remember thinking, ‘I have to try more of this.’”
Gelato, at that time, hadn’t been popularized in the United States. It wasn’t until a few years later, on a return trip to Italy for a food trade show, that she and John proposed opening an ‘artiginale’ gelateria in Philadelphia.
And Capogiro Gelato Artisans was born. Today, Reitano owns six locations where her sweet dessert treats can be consumed, including Capofitto Pizzeria + Gelateria, a dual pizzeria and gelato shop located in Philadelphia’s Old City section.
Reitano craved replicating the flavors, textures, and tastes of the gelato she consumed in Italy. So she went about creating Capogiro in the same fashion. Reitano and her husband own a dairy in the city’s East Falls section, where they pasteurize the raw milk they purchase in Honeybrook, Pa. She produces all of her gelato bases and flavorings from scratch. The roasted and blended nut mixtures that produce nut paste? Done in-house, she said. The same goes her chocolates.
“In Italy, there are 20,000 places to get gelato, but the go-to places – the places everyone talks about – are ‘artiginale,’” Reitano said. “John and I were at that trade show and we met people who said, ‘Americans like things easy. Do it this way.’ But we were never looking to take the easy way out.”
The extra effort hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2011, National Geographic named Capogiro Gelato Artisans the best place in the world to eat ice cream. The recognition, published in National Geographic’s book, “500 Food Journeys of a Lifetime,” solidified Reitano’s decision to commit to old-style preparation and only the best ingredients. Her mouth seemingly waters when she discusses the peaches she buys in-season from a farm in Lancaster, Pa., or the strawberries she orders from a farm in nearby New Jersey, or the blackberries the size of walnuts. “I dare you to find a locally grown blackberry better than that,” she said. “This region and its food are spectacular.”
Reitano, who graduated from the Fox School with a degree in Human Resource Management and Business Law, lives in Fairmount with her husband and their three children – daughter Michaela, and sons Emanuel and Severin. Despite the heavy workload of managing a half-dozen locations seven days a week, she’s proving daily that it’s been worth the journey.
“I hear stories of people incorporating Capogiro into their lives, or their vacations, and it’s humbling,” Reitano said. “How we got the National Geographic honor is inspiring, too. The writers, photographers, and editors turn in their votes for where they eat when they travel, and they overwhelmingly voted for us.
“They described us as lovely and wonderful, and said ‘anytime you’re in Philadelphia, this is where you must go.’ To receive that kind of praise and validation meant a lot.”