Frisky Days at Fresco
ICE COLD COMFORT.
Fresco Gelateria is located in the heart of the East Village in Manhattan, and it is one of the must-visits for people in New York City. Ice cold treats are absolutely their specialty, but they have recently expanded to have their menu include other food items, such as salad bowls, avocado toast, and literally a million different variations of coffee. However, the gelato is the real shining glory of the location. So, what’s their secret? Why is everything that comes out of this place so beautifully tasty?
We sat down with the owner, Ilias Iliopoulos, to discover exactly why everything he produces is so perfect. And to be honest, it was mostly simple: he only serves what he would eat. And goddamn, his pallet must be pretty similar to that of zeus. Below is an interview with one of the most down-to-earth, charming, and friendly people we have met in our time living here. Enjoy, go and get some damn gelato.
Oh, and check out their Instagram too @frescogelateria. It’s got a vibe like no other.
What were you doing before you started this?
Living in Greece, we had a place, that looked nothing like this, and got familiarized with gelato business.I had actually been familiar with the restaurant business because my parents were in the restaurant business in South Africa, where I was born. They never really wanted us to be in this, because of the long hours, and essentially making “blood money”. We wanted to have a place that was very straightforward, rather than being a restaurant where there could be too much variation. We have expanded our menu now, we always planned to but never planned to go this far with it. We realized you can’t really make it if you don’t branch out into other things. You can’t make it as a regular coffee shop no matter how good your product is, especially if it’s a cold product. Nobody eats ice cream in the winter. I bought a gelato place in Greece and that’s where it started, I was doing real estate at that point and wanted to put my feet in to many different pools. Learn a little bit of everything. I had a business partner at that point, but it was hard to have creative freedom if you don’t agree on everything. There was also the bigger problem with the way things were running in Greece, the economy in general, and there’s a lot of give and take between the public and private sector. In Greece, it’s surreal the things that happened. It was like what happens in the movies. Most people, when you would be surprised at bribes, would just say “So what?”. I’m no baby, I get that’s the way things worked, I just didn’t like it. Coming to the US and seeing how businesses run, it was a night and day difference.
How much of the store did you design yourself?
The great thing about this place is that all the little things just all came together, it was definitely a group effort. A friend of ours in Greece designed our logo, it was modeled a bit after a beacon, but is more like a cone with ice cream. My sister had a lot of ideas when it comes to design, as well as my architect. My claim to fame was the name, Fresco means “fresh” in Greek, however it translates into so many different languages and that it was just amazing to me.
When people come into this place, we wanted for people to come in here and zen-out. It is especially good in the East village, because when we opened, it was a lot grittier. There was a large contrast between the outside and in the store, and it’s nice to be feel like you’re transported into a different place.
What do you seek for the future?
I liked gelato as a concept, it was like a finished product as opposed to the restaurant business. It’s a clean business, a fun place to be in, and people are normally in a happy mood. It’s really a pleasant experience. What we did, we were able to not make it a gimmicky.
You can take it so many different avenues, I would want to break into different types of revenue, packaging, and partnering with restaurants to take over their desert menu. We already started doing that with NYU. It is a PR game, people have to know who you are. It is a process, and I like a challenge.
Who does the music for the store?
I do all of it. That’s one of the things I want to keep for myself. Because Music is really important to me, it’s a big part of the atmosphere and appeal. If I wouldn’t personally listen to it, I won’t put it on the playlist. My goal is to have people not come in and listen on their headphones, I want them to actually want to hear what’s playing. That’s something that’s so important to the atmosphere, and I feel like many places forget that. Not that I’m a snob, but I don’t want to go into somewhere and hear the same stuff over that I hear in every other place.