Ice cream lovers rejoice. Fish Creek is now home to three variations of the frozen, creamy dessert. If you want custard, head to Not Licked Yet. Hard-scooped ice cream? Dippy’s has you covered. Gelato? Enter Sara’s Artisan Gelato.
It didn’t take Sara Santaga long into her culinary career to realize two things. First, that she wanted to be her own boss and, second, she had a passion for gelato.
“My grandfather is an immigrant from Italy, so I grew up very immersed in the Italian culture on my dad’s side,” Santaga said.
When the family would travel to Italy, it always involved a stop — or two — for some local gelato.
“Each time I was more and more obsessed with the gelato,” she recalled.
Around this same time, Santaga, who had recently graduated from culinary school, was trying to figure out her next career move, one that aligned her education with her entrepreneurial and culinary interests.
“That’s when I came up with the idea of a gelato business,” she said.
While working as a line cook at Whistling Swan in Fish Creek, she saved enough money to attend gelato school in Bologna, Italy for an entire month during the summer of 2017.
“I fell in love with the process,” Santaga said. “The creativity, the familiar ties with the Italian culture, it just felt right.”
Upon returning from Italy, she formed the LLC for her business, Sara’s Artisan Gelato, and never looked back. She started with wholesale sales only in 2018 before opening her first brick-and-mortar shop in Green Bay, where she continues to make the gelato for both wholesale and retail. This past spring, she brought a taste of Italy to Fish Creek, opening a second location just below the restaurant she worked at while saving for her gelato training in Italy.
When it comes to flavors, Santaga strives to blend creativity with approachability. A glance through the gelato case reveals all the standard gelato classics one might expect to find, including pistachio, stracciatella, and chocolate. To keep things interesting, flavors vary from week to week — Bourbon brown butter pecan, toasted coconut, and S’mores are some of the unconventional, but decadent flavors one might encounter — anchored by the more traditional varieties.
“I try to make flavors that are approachable, not intimidating,” she said, adding that each new recipe is repeatedly tested and adjusted until it’s just right. “Over time, I created more flavors —some that are seasonal and some that are just for fun.”
At just 25 years old, Santaga has learned a lot about the business world in just a few short years.
“I had a lot to learn [when I started] because I never went to school for business,” she said.
What she did know was that she believed in her product. For everything else, she leaned on those who had the experience and knowledge she lacked.
“If I had really known what I was getting into, I’m not sure I would have had the guts to do it,” she said. “My advice is to have a solid business plan, have a few business mentors in your back pocket for advice and to not overthink it.”
Having exceeded her expectations for her inaugural season in Fish Creek, Santaga said she can’t imagine having her second location anywhere else.
“It is crazy how it has come full circle,” she said. “I was working in the kitchen just above what is now my gelato shop in Fish Creek.”
Fun Facts: Gelato vs. Ice Cream
– Air: Gelato has less air than ice cream, making it more dense and creamy
– Fat: Gelato uses more milk, but less cream, resulting in a finished product that has less fat than ice cream (that’s why ice cream has a harder texture).
– Serving temperature: Gelato is served at a warmer temperature which creates a creamier texture and allows tastebuds to experience more intense flavor.