“How does she know me? She is looking right at me with a smile and is making easy conversation like she is my friend. ”
I come out and ask her, “Are you the owner?”
“Yes.” She replies with a toothsome smile. “Are you the eater?”
“Yes.” I say.
“Then we will be friends!” she says with a joking lilt and gesture, done only the way an Italian can, speaking eloquently with her hands.
“That’s Titzi. She is warm and open and she knows everyone. She treats everyone with respect and interest.” said Patty Ramirez.
Tiziana “Titzi” De Col and her partner, Laurent “Lorenzo” Testa, own and operate Tutti Frutti, in Placencia Belize. It is an Italian gelato shop that uses the best of the old and new worlds. The selection ranges from straciatella,( a chocolate chip flavor) pistachio, and chocolate, to the local favorites like sweet corn and caramel. Fresh local fruits are abundant and make up half the case; pineapple, Jamaican lime, watermelon, and coconut were on tap the day I made my discovery of the shop.
Tutti Frutti is Placencia, the way that a business makes itself a vital part of the community. It is a hub of activity: a social gathering place where check-ins and morning repasts are just as important as cool, creamy treats and smoothies.
“We have worked very hard over the past ten years.” said De Col.
She knows everyone and what they like to eat.
“We wanted to bring what we know and love here to a place where we can share our passions. Lorenzo comes from a line of gelataio, or gelato makers. He loves doing this and father taught him how.” said De Col.
The partners met in Sardinia one summer. De Col, a native of Pordenone, just outside of Venice, came from a background in hospitality. Her studies cemented her love of travel. “I had lived in London and liked to move around. We knew we needed to make a change and find our own path. “stated De Col.
The pair, armed with artisanal gelato connections in Italy, came to Belize in 2001. Testa had lived in France and Italy, and used his relationship with that same gelato supplier to build a foundation of flavors and techniques at the Belize shop.
“We had to import all of the equipment, from the freezers to the showcase and the scooping paddles. We go back every year to test new flavor ingredients and choose what we think will sell.” said De Col.
Ogni giorno, Io fatto il gelato.
“Every morning, I make the gelato.” said Lorenzo. He smiled up at me while he showed me how to form the frozen cream into swirling, eye-catching peaks. Five hours are devoted to composing fourteen daily varieties.
From the start, Testa and De Col worked directly with Belizean producers. The gelato is hand-made from scratch. “We met with the Mennonite dairy farmers and sugar producers. We had to change the recipes up a little bit due to cream content of the milk and the coarseness of the sugar.” Small changes also helped to account for the moisture of local fruits like soursop, craboo, and mango. ” After ten years, we know how to mix it right to get the creamy and flavor filled tastes.”
“We have much passion.” said De Col. This is evident. The gelato is addictive; tourists and locals alike work their way down the case, tasting new selections on a daily basis.
De Col said, “You have to do what you love or not do it at all. When I don’t love it, I won’t do it.”
Tutti Frutti is on the Main street in Placencia Belize. They are open at 9:30 am for coffee, shakes and gelato. They stay open through the late evening. Closed Wednesdays and all of August and September so that they can catch their breath.
Kristin Fuhrmann Simmons