The Big Chill

One Valley gelateria has the competition licked

Depending on what's available, Spangaro might make prickly pear gelato or tequila lime sorbet. Organic yogurt gelato requires him to cook a special base just for that flavor, but the result is worth it — the taste and texture put ordinary frozen yogurt to shame.

And for private customers, Spangaro's gone even more exotic, whipping up gelato with champagne, Jack Daniel's (with more than a liter and a half in one pan), or red Zinfandel grapes from a friend's Napa Valley estate. One time, he even made a decadent gelato using white truffles from Alba. The delicacies are available only from December to February, and this year, they ran about $1,800 a pound. He sold it by the pan, but if he'd sold it by the scoop, it would've been 10 or 12 dollars apiece.

Right now, Spangaro's in the process of getting copyrights for his gelato base recipes. He could make a fortune on them if he wanted to, but he'd rather protect them than sell them. Although he wouldn't rule out franchising if his high standards could be maintained, at the moment, his plan is to start training a young man to make gelato this summer, in the hopes of opening a second shop next year. They've been talking about it since before Spangaro even opened Arlecchino.

A drizzle of warm, homemade chocolate sauce.
Peter Scanlon
A drizzle of warm, homemade chocolate sauce.
Sculptural fruit carvings are conspicuously absent.
Peter Scanlon
Sculptural fruit carvings are conspicuously absent.

Plenty of people have offered to work for him for free, but he's extremely wary. "I know where they're coming from," he says. There also have been a few incidents of people asking employees very specific, technical questions about how Spangaro makes his gelato.

A few months after Arlecchino opened, somebody broke into the shop and tried to steal the recipes. They didn't actually take anything off the premises; instead, they lined up dozens of pages of Spangaro's notes — all in Italian — and, apparently, took photos of them. (Turns out, the notes did not include the recipes.)

Two weeks after the break-in, someone tried to burglarize Spangaro's maestro's place in Italy, he says, but again, there were no recipes to steal. Then, a couple of months later, the "technician" arrived at Arlecchino.

"He said, 'It'll only take a couple of minutes.' This was a five-month-old machine at that point," Spangaro says. "My employee called me, and I said, 'I'm gonna be right there.' It took me less than two minutes to get there because I live in an apartment building across the street - and I ran. He left 10 seconds before I got there."

Thankfully, nothing shady has happened since. A more typical scenario these days — now that word's out on Arlecchino — is admirers coming in to negotiate with Spangaro. Or to try, at least.

One customer, who owns some buildings in Tokyo, and has tried gelato all over the world, comes to Phoenix a few times a year. He makes Spangaro an offer every time he visits. If he agreed to it, Spangaro could get his own shop and a very large amount of money — but the catch is, he'd have to move to Tokyo.

For now, he says he's not interested in the least. Let's hope he never changes his mind.

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12 comments
Ben
Ben

Viva La Arlecchino! Anybody who claims this as overpriced severely undervalues top quality... A scoop of heaven for $4? I'll take 2 please.

Giorgio Tresoldi
Giorgio Tresoldi

This is what the New times is all about, I'm garateful you do stories about the small guy doing a better job than the big companies, I refuse to eat the baskisn's the dipping's the ben's and all the other chemical artificial colors and flavors.......for the price of real stuff, I hope arlecchino keeps up the quality and does not enter the game of the big companies with kids runing the store and fast instant gelato like others.

Danila Marchetti
Danila Marchetti

It's good to have a healty alternative, franchises are poisoning us with the processed,and artificial flavors and colors.

Rosa Cordova
Rosa Cordova

I travel to phoenix just for the gelato!

frank medina
frank medina

I used to go there to get the pizza at the place next door at la grand orange but now I go to arlecchino to get gelato.....then if I have room pizza!

aldo magnano
aldo magnano

this is the best gelato i have ever tasted, glad you did the story, went there and tried it earlier, it was hard to stop ordering more, going back after dinner.oh yeah the guy that said it's overpriced, compared to what? other gelatos and ice creams are about the same and they are air filled.

aldo magnano

Harland Beuden
Harland Beuden

WOW! I could not believe the great taste of the pistachio gelato, out of this world.

Guille Castillo
Guille Castillo

I'm hooked for life, best gelato I have ever tasted, my favorite is the coffe, as far as the comment someone made about it being overpriced.....crazy! it's the best product for the money.

Guille castillo

sergio moreno
sergio moreno

as a proffessional pilot I have traveled the world and in Italy got hooked on gelato, I have walked the main streets in Rome,Milano and Verona trying every gelato shop in sight, my amazement was I found the best gelato in phoenix at arlecchino gelateria, when you learn how gelato is supposed to taste you can tell if there are chemicals, when the gelato is gummy or tastes good at first but than you get the aftertaste you know there are chemicals and preservatives in it, also if you feel sleepy or heavy after heaving your gelato you have consumed corn syrup instead of good quality sugar, the beatiful bright colors belong on clothing not in gelato.thank you Marina and Moreno for bringing to phoenix the best gelato I have ever tasted.

sergio moreno, El Paso texas

so what
so what

4 pages on overpriced ice cream? Slow news year?

 
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