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Business Spotlight: Giovanni's Gelato Cafe

Photo of the owner of Giovanni’s Gelato Café in front of glass case of gelato

Giovanni Rizza is a native of Sicily who emigrated to greater Chicago in 1967.

He’s brought a taste of Italy - in the form of brilliantly flavored gelato, not to mention modernist Italian design and display - to Oro Valley.

October 27, 2015

Giovanni and his wife Agnieszla have opened Giovanni’s Gelato Café, located in San Jose Plaza immediately south of the Fairfield Inn by Marriott on Oracle Road.

Agnes is the artist, trained in the craft of gelato, producing 32 flavors, from bubble gum to merlot, “chocolat” to bright fruits, and the Italian classics such as stracciatella. Gelato comes in three sizes – piccolo, medio and grande.

Agnes “knows the whole thing,” Giovanni said. “She’s got the taste. She’s got the passion.” And their clients “love her,” the adoring husband said. “She smile all the time. When she works, the tip jar is full.”

Guests love the gelato, too. “I gotta feeling it’s a little addictive,” Giovanni said.  “It’s the best. I think so.”

Giovanni has owned a rental house in Oro Valley for several years. Years of Chicago winter got to him. He decided to live in Oro Valley with Agnes and young son Massimo.

“I like the climate, it’s nice,” he said.

Giovanni purchased the retail space known as San Jose Plaza. Once settled, Giovanni saw a need for real Italian gelato. Oro Valley could use some good Italian pastry, too, he figured, and fine espresso for good measure. A year later, Giovanni’s Gelato Café’ is now operating seven days a week.

No costs have been spared. Giovanni’s expensive, curved glass gelato case comes from Italy, “the best gelato case on the market today.” His coffee machine is Italian, producing fine espresso and cappuccino. He hired an Italian architect to design and decorate the business, and the modernism is apparent.

Giovanni’s Gelato Shop is “a lot of work, a lot of cleaning, a lot of hours,” Giovanni said. “We do it all.”

Thus far, “business has been good,” and it’s getting better as word spreads. His friends in Chicago were skeptical it could succeed. “When I see the line” of people lined up for Agnes’ gelato, “I take a photo, a picture, for a souvenir, and I send it to my friends in Chicago,” he said.

He’ll be sending pictures all winter long.

Giovanni’s Gelato Café
Gelato, café, cappuccino, pastry
10110 N. Oracle
Oro Valley
9 a.m.-10 p.m. 7 days a week

By: Dave Perry, President/CEO Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce