Stephanie and John Reitano Changed the Way Philadelphians Indulge
by Marni Prichard Manko
With an encyclopedic knowledge of food, a fierce love for their craft and an unwavering commitment to creating gastronomic delights, Stephanie and John Reitano sit at the helm of Capogiro, Philadelphia’s beloved maker of decadent artisanal gelato. The story of how they got there is a classic tale of passion begetting success.
Back in the summer of 2001, the couple had three small kids at home, a fledgling children’s clothing line, John’s flourishing psychiatric practice and a shared yearning to do something different with their lives.
Burned out by the daily rigmarole and itching for a respite, the clan took a last-minute trip to Italy to visit John’s family. While strolling the piazzas, Stephanie indulged in some gelato and—six cones later—was hooked. “When I had gelato for the first time I was amazed. I don’t even like ice cream!” she says. Stephanie became mesmerized by the dense and creamy delicacy, and by the time the duo returned home they’d resolved to bring the sublime experience stateside.
John took on the business side, and Stephanie helmed all things epicurean. The result of their work is arguably the finest thing to happen to frozen treats in Philadelphia since Lewis Dubois Bassett scooped his first cone back in 1861. Since opening their first location in Midtown Village in 2002, the Reitanos have expanded their sweet empire to include three free-standing gelaterias, one South Philly scoop shop and a wholesale business selling to restaurants and hotels from The Standard Hotel in New York to The Setai in Miami.
The secret to their success stems from a strict adherence to the small-batch methods used in Italy. Making all gelatos and sorbetti on-site daily using only locally grown, farm-fresh ingredients brought in from Lancaster County, Stephanie has created some of the most sinfully indulgent (and unexpected) concoctions in Philly’s culinary world.
Out of the roughly 350 varieties created thus far, some of the couple’s best-selling flavors are bitter chocolate, Thai coconut, vanilla and an oddball combo of rosemary, honey and goat’s milk. As for the less successful attempts, Stephanie says her Gorgonzola, pear and walnut amalgamation fell a bit flat (“Only two people liked it—everyone else thought it was evil,” she laughs).
Perhaps the Reitanos’ favorite outspoken customers are those who can compare their product with the original back in the motherland. “Invariably, when we have Italian families come in here, they tell us how happy they are with the Capogiro experience,” John says proudly. “They say they can’t believe that they can get gelato of this quality here in the States,” Stephanie adds.
PHOTOGRAPH BY DASHA WRIGHT