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Gelato…Shoes…and Marion, Arkansas: The Italian Connection…

Buying shoes…it’s got many a woman in trouble. In my case, though, it’s not the local BOGO sales—it’s Italy. Husband Peter and I went annually to Italy for fourteen years, buying shoes. It was a business thing, a personal thing. “Good” shoes you can get anywhere. Great shoes you can find made in several countries—England, the USA, Canada, and more. Superior shoes, the finest shoes, shoes of the most superb craftsmanship…For those, give me Italy. Select leathers, perfectly tanned, luxuriously finished…lasting and sewing by some of the finest shoemakers in the world…Don’t get me started!

Wandering the cities and towns of Italy, you can’t help stopping to sample the food. “Sample,” in my case, however, might under describe. As an American, I’d always been a bit of an ice cream fiend. Those first Italian trips, though, brought me to gelato. And, especially, to the combination of gelato and coffee. 

So what’s the big deal with this “gelato” stuff? Isn’t gelato just the Italian word for ice cream? Yup. Word-wise, that’s it. But if you’re Italian, or a connoisseur…you just know the difference.

Gelato—whichever of its endless recipe variants you try—involves less of four things than ice cream. 

Less sugar—everyone from moms to weightwatchers has to go for that.

Less fat. It’s called ice cream for a reason. Do your arteries need all that? Gelato involves the use of much healthier milk, far less cream.

Less air. Did you know ice cream was whipped at high speed especially to bulk it up with air? The supermarket ice creams you buy may be as much as a quarter or more pure air? Do you need to pay for that? Gelato isn’t puffed up that way. It’s denser, more flavorful.

And finally…less haste. Much less haste. As in: None. Ice creams are manufactured. Good gelato is crafted—every bit as much as those fine Italian shoes. 

Goodbye, ice cream…

And hello, Funkee’s Cafe!

Funkee’s Cafe is my new venture…A brand new coffee and gelato bar, tucked neatly inside a strip center in Marion, Arkansas, just over the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tennessee. 

Arkansas? Yes, indeed…Marion, Arkansas is home to a substantial population of Americans of Italian heritage. They’ve been here, and they’ve been arriving, since before the murderous yellow fever epidemics of the 1870s. Originally mostly workers in agricultural businesses, they now engage in a hundred different occupations. American though they be, they keep alive their Italian heritage. And many know their gelato. Not to mention their coffee.

About great gelato, there’s so much to say. How it’s different from North American ice creams. Why it works as a gourmet delight…and as an everyday treat. How we make it. What it’s like to attend school with a great gelato maker. And how we at Funkee’s Cafe hope to serve not only great coffee, great gelato and other fine foods, but to serve Marion and eastern Arkansas and the Memphis area with a new business vision, new opportunities, and so much more.

The blogs will roll out fast, so watch! And when you can, drop in—we’d love to see you!

 

Bio

Thank you and have a Great Day,

Mary

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Gelato/shaved ice/sliders restaurant opening in October

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Gelato/shaved ice/sliders restaurant opening in October

By Meagan Nichols - Staff Reporter Memphis Business Journal

Oct 8, 2015, 2:59pm CDT

It’s over the river and down the bridge to Marion, Arkansas, we go, for a new dining option.

Funkee’s Café, located at 2895 Highway 77, Suites 2 and 3, will open to the public in late October.

The restaurant will have Italian gelato, gourmet coffees, New Orleans shaved ice, various yogurts and other light meal options. Mary Singer, Funkee's owner, said they plan to use farm fresh ingredients.

“We want to keep residents of Marion from having to drive across the river in search of premium coffee, shaved ice, sliders and other food delicacies,” Singer said, in a release. “And just as much, we want to give the Mid-South a reason to cross over the bridge to enjoy what we offer. They’ll find the trip’s well worth it.”

Singer said she wants Funkee’s Cafe to become “Marion’s place.”

“We’re not a chain,” Singer said. “We’re local. Our employees are local. Our purpose is to serve the local community.”

An event room at the restaurant is also available for functions.

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