Fresh Faces and Flavors at the Festival Italiano


Posted Thu, Sep 22, 2016


Audrey and Mark DiFrancia, owners of Paciugo Gelato. [Courtesy Photo]

BELMAR, Colo. — Mark and Audrey DiFrancia, two of the kindest souls one could ever come across, are who you would hope to find behind the counter of a gelato store. Their gentle ease with customers and vibrant ideas when it comes to flavors, all mix together to create the perfect atmosphere for the shop.

Having only been the franchise owners of Paciugo Gelato and Caffè since July of this year, Mark and Audrey adventurously decided to participate in the Festival Italiano in Belmar this September. In preparation for the event, they worked hard and long for a week before to create 70 pans of 16 different flavors. And not only did they serve gelato directly from their storefront, which was conveniently located along the main streets of the festival, but they also had stands set up across the street to serve the delicious frozen treat to their customers.

Mark, of Italian heritage himself, was excited to participate in this event and said that his favorite part of it was “meeting the other vendors” and later added, “that, and meeting the people that came to the booth.” He commented on how friendly the other vendors were and how none of them would allow him to pay for the things he got from them. They would all turn down his money saying, “your money is no good here today.”


More than 800 people celebrated Festival Italiano. [Photo: Abby Bowen]

Their shop was a favorite among the festival attendees and Mark said that many of their customers returned later in the day to inform them that Paciugo was the only gelato place that made their gelato in-store; everyone else had had theirs shipped in.

Their first time at the festival was definitely a learning experience, they both admitted. Unsure of what people would want, flavor wise, they made too much of some, and not enough of others. The favorite flavors for the day were the Chocolate Cookies and Milk and Chocolate Chocolate Chip.

Mark said that in all this he learned you can’t start preparations for an event like this too soon. There’s quite a bit to get done to be prepared for this type of festival. Especially when you are serving over 800 people a day. He also said that next time they wouldn’t put the stands so close to the store, but rather try and generate traffic to those stands further away.

Now that the craziness of the festival is over, the two are getting back to work with coming up with new Fall flavors and preparing for the next season. Their store, located at 7181 W Alaska Drive in Belmar, is open every day ‘till 10 p.m., and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They have a wide variety of gelato and sorbet flavors that are constantly changing, as well as a cafe where you can get coffee drinks. You can expect to pay about $3.99 to $5.79 for your cup of gelato, depending on what size you get.

About Abby Bowen

Abby Bowen is a Denver-area freelance writer.

View all posts by Abby Bowen

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