Sweet Scoops Gelato in Centre Hall has been open for about three years, but owners Rose and Eddie Nicolosi have been in the business of Italian hospitality for much longer. The two also own the next-door Brothers Pizza & Italian Restaurant. In 2014 they decided to make the most of an empty space, choosing to go a sweet rather than a savory route, and started serving up everyone’s favorite Italian dessert — gelato.
While the family thought there was a need for the business in Centre Hall, it would be a new venture for them, as their prior dessert experience was limited to the favorites served at Brothers — like the crowd-favorite tiramisu.
For those who aren’t familiar with this frozen concoction, gelato undergoes a churning process that’s different from that you’d see when making ice cream. The all-natural ingredients (including locally sourced dairy from Turkey Hill in Lancaster) and churning methods result in a richer, more-concentrated flavor. As Nicolosi says, “If the flavor is blood orange, it tastes like blood orange. There’s nothing artificial in it. It tastes like the real thing.”
Flowing the Italian feel of the restaurant into Sweet Scoops was an important part of the business plan. In the fashion of many authentic Italian gelato shops, they serve a selection of espressos and other coffee drinks, and there are several gelato flavors on the menu that may seem unfamiliar. One of the best-sellers is the “stracciatella,” which Nicolosi compares to an Italian version of a chocolate chip. Another authentic favorite is their version of the “affogato” — gelato served with a cookie, a shot of espresso poured over top and whipped cream.
Other gelato best-sellers include the chocolate hazelnut (comparable to Nutella) and the peanut butter. A stand-out flavor that’s hard to find elsewhere is the biscotto, with cookie crumbs, chocolate and a caramel-like sauce. As for Nicolosi, her favorite is the pistachio.
“We make it with ground pistachios. A lot of places don’t do that; they add flavorings. Ours is pure pistachio.”
“(Sweet Scoops) goes hand in hand with the Italian restaurant,” she said. “It’s the whole experience. People can go eat dinner and then go there and have coffee, gelato.”
However, if you’re not feeling the Italian theme, she also assures that the establishment makes an effort to please all their patrons as much as possible. Alongside the gelato and coffees, visitors will find frozen yogurt and soft-serve ice cream. Homemade waffle cones are the perfect accompaniment, and the toppings bar is filled with the most popular favorites.
Flavors are announced on Facebook every day. The gelato repertoire includes many classics alongside seasonal favorites, such as pumpkin in the fall and watermelon and lemon in the summer, with four flavors available every day. There are always three kinds of frozen yogurt available as well — two separate flavors and then a mix of both.
“We try to meet the demand,” Nicolosi said. “Like if we have it in the back and we have it made, and it’s not out, we’ll pull it out for them; or if they say they want it, we’ll make it and let them know (when it’s available).”
Since opening, Nicolosi said the community response has been receptive, with many happy to see a new option available within Centre Hall. While the large variety of the menu helps attract a wide demographic, it might be the high quality that attracts the most loyal followers.
“We try to use really good ingredients, everything is quality,” Nicolosi said. “We try to serve what we would eat ourselves — good quality ingredients for the best price that we can do.”
Holly Riddle is a freelance food, travel and lifestyle writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: Sweet Scoops Gelato
Where: 237 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Centre Hall
Info: 364-1141, www.facebook.com/SweetScoopsGelato