Gaia Gelato has been a long-time partner of the San Diego Film Festival. In fact, our events would not be the same without their tasty treats. Co-founder Paola Richard is even on our board! Learn more about the incredible people behind one of North County’s sweetest spots.
Falling in Love with Gaia Gelato
By Tiffany Noel Froese
One night in January of 2013, Paola Richard walked into Carlsbad Village and fell in love. It was cold, dark, and empty but the place captivated her. A year later, she and her cousin Cristina Amaroso moved to Carlsbad to open Gaia Gelato. Three years later, they have been honored by San Diego Magazine’s Best of North County issues and have gained accolades in their native Italy as well.
If you were to review Cristina and Paola’s resumes, you might wonder how in the world these two women had come to set up a gelato shop in Carlsbad. Cristina holds a degree in Economics from LUISS University in Rome and had a career working as a financial analyst for some major international corporations like Johnson & Johnson, Aeritalia, and Mobile Oil. Paola holds a degree in Marine Biology and is an expert in Environmental Communications and Media Relations. She’s also a freelance journalist for National Geographic’s Italian website, The Huffington Post, and La Repubblica. Yet the women are as creative as they are accomplished and as Paola explains about Cristina, “[She] was “bored” working in a cubicle and she was looking for a more creative activity where she could use her hands. Cristina [also] has a degree in Naturopathy and was also a Reflexologist. Her self-expression and creativity are in the hands and she always loved gelato.”
Cristina took a leap and enrolled at the prestigious Università dei Sapori (University of Flavors) in Perugia. When she graduated, she began looking to open a gelato shop in Italy with her cousin, Paola’s older brother, Fabrizio. It was Fabrizio who had the idea of bringing her talents to Southern California. They called Paola who had been spending a lot of time in Carlsbad and asked her if she wanted to be part of the project. She thought about it for 24 hours before she agreed to come on board. Today, she and Cristina run the business on the ground while Fabrizio handles the business administration from Italy. He has a background in corporate governance and internal auditing for some of the largest corporations in Italy and has been a huge support.
Gaia, which is the name of the ancient Greek goddess of the earth, is a fitting moniker for this female driven business of gelato. Cristina uses only the freshest natural ingredients in her abundantly varied concoctions, the majority of which are sourced locally. She uses cream from Alta Dena in City of Industry, local Carlsbad strawberries, and gets other produce from Specialty Produce which sources from organic San Diego farms. They’ve also developed a community program wherein they collect citrus and other fruits from local organic orchards in exchange for gelato and sorbets.
The gelato is undeniably delicious, but perhaps the secret ingredient that binds it all together is the love Gaia Gelato’s founders express. As Paola says,
After traveling the world following some of the most exciting wildlife conservation projects, I developed an urge to not only take care of people and animals in exotic places. Mental and physical pain, depression, and many forms of everyday disconnection surround us all the time. I feel that maybe we can improve things with what we do, but we can improve them way more by who we become. Integrity in business, in our community, being open to personal and team growth and supporting everybody in our daily range, from workers to customers and suppliers is truly making my days a lot more interesting and happy.
I like to personally recognize every single person who walks in the store. I cultivate the hope that as a team we can make the day a little happier with the best gelato we can make, with our welcoming Italian culture and a simple smile.
So, if you’re having a bad day, go get a bite of gelato at Gaia and bask in the flavors and authentic Italian hospitality. It just might make the world a better place. To learn more about Gaia Gelato, visit their website at www.gaiagelato.com
We hope you’ll join the San Diego Italian Film Festival and Gaia Gelato Saturday, April 22, 2017, at 5pm at La Paloma Theatre as we celebrate the Earth and raise money to support not only our own projects, but those of the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project. Click HERE to purchase tickets.