By Caroline Gonzalez, Loyola Student News Service
“Welcome to our living room,” is what customers hear when being greeted by Ross and Ria Turnbull, the owners of the new Freret Street dessert destination, Piccola Gelateria.
The addition at 4525 Freret St. had its grand opening on Friday, Dec. 3.
Piccola was a long-time dream for the couple of 15 years. They both worked at a hotel in Boston, the Westin Copley, where they met.
“I saw him wearing a red chili pepper hat. From then on I was checking him out and he was checking me out, but we didn’t know it,” Ria said.
The couple dated for 11 months, and were engaged for 48 hours, before going to Las Vegas and getting married.
After working in the hospitality industry for several decades, the couple wanted to unite their talents and create something they love. They moved to New Orleans when Ross was transferred as a chef and fell in love with the city. In their fourth year of being New Orleans residents, they decided to start planning Piccola.
Ross, from Calgary, Canada, traveled and worked in Europe for most of his professional life. He has loved making gelato since he was first an apprentice chef.
“I’ve been a chef for 35 years, I’ve been an executive chef for 25 years. I was a chef in a hotel in Boston, where I met Ria, and from there we traveled across the country,” said Ross.
Ross manages the culinary side of Piccola. He uses a La Marzoccoo GB5 espresso machine to make coffee, and uses a Guatemalan, Colombian and Brazilian blend created by Sambalatte Torrefazionne, a specialty coffee shop in Las Vegas specifically for Piccola.
“People rave about it. The coffee is so well balanced that you don’t need sugar for it. I see a lot of people generally put sugar in their coffee, and I tell them, ‘Just try it before you put sugar in it.’ And they say, ‘Wow, that’s so smooth,’” Ross said.
Ross, whose favorite flavor is pistachio, studied the making of gelato in Bologna, Italy, and his offerings on Freret Street retain the region’s style. Everything is hand made by Ross daily, with no preservatives, no added colors and nothing artificial.
Ria, from Sarajevo, Bosnia, manages the sales and marketing and put the design together for Piccola. She designed the shop with Denis Leo Hegic, an architect interior designer from Sarajevo, who lives in Berlin. Leo Hegic proposed several designs to the Turnbulls, and with his expertise they decided on the current design. After six months of planning and preparation, the plan was put into action.
With an international flair inside the shop, customers immediately see a pozzetti case. Pozzetti cases were developed in Italy 100 years ago and hold the gelato to keep it fresh all day. Along with the case, there are German-designed chairs, Italian porcelain tile, and Venetian plastered walls. Ross put his own touch in the restaurant by building copper trellis to hold the menus.
But really Piccola resembles a living room. With couches, a big teddy bear, and two love seats, it’s a lovely environment to relax or study. The couple offers free wifi to encourage people to come and do work.
“This is us wanting to give something back to the community. Our careers have been very good to us, this is something we’ve wanted to do, but we also want to give back to people. We want a great environment for people to come sit down, relax, do work, have some coffee, gelato or a piadina,” Ross said.
During the grand opening, Ria and Ross were welcoming everyone to their living room. Piccola’s main salon is practically the couple’s living room because they live right upstairs.
Customers were complimentary about the gelato. Conversation about the freshness and taste were heard often.
“My favorite flavor is pistachio. … I make a study of ice cream and gelato flavors, and this is by far the best place in town,” said Jenn Summers, a customer who was at the grand opening with friends.
Ross says the pozzetti will always have at least four flavors that do not contain dairy.
Making everything from scratch requires Ross to mix up the flavors when certain fruits are in season. While most shops use a powder or flavoring to create their gelato, Ross does not.
“I have a lot of difficulty picking a flavor, they all look and taste so good,” said customer Kayla Noto.
Piccola Gelateria is at 4525 Freret St. It is open Tuesdays through Sundays. Hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursday and Sundays; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The Loyola Student News Service features reporters from advanced-level journalism classes at Loyola University New Orleans, directed by faculty advisers.