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Americans’ love affair with Italian food, wine, culture and art isn’t lost on Marzia and Nico Candelora. The husband-and-wife team of Italian restaurateurs opened their second Punta Gorda establishment—Fresco.

Fresco is located at 321 Taylor St., next door to their full-menu Italian restaurant, Pizza Gorda, which opened in August 2020.

Several dozen Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce board members, family and friends were on hand June 11 to celebrate Fresco’s grand opening with the Candeloras and their son, Lorenzo.

Fresco is a specialty cafe offering homemade pastries, gelato, pasta, sauces, various imported Italian foods, cookies and wine.

“Thank you all so much for coming,” Marzia Candelora said repeatedly, greeting well-wishers who dropped by.

Making a surprise visit was former Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce President John Wright, who recently retired after 18 years and is now working as marketing director for ShorePoint Health in Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte.

Interim Chamber President Val Edmunds presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony after visitors were treated to an array of desserts, gelatos and beverages.

Prior to the grand opening, Marzia explained the art of making gelato. Fresco’s gelato is made fresh daily the same way it is made in Italy, she said.

Nico, who went to culinary school in Italy, also received additional education to become a certified Master Gelatiere, or Gelato Master.

Fresco ribbon-cutting in Punta GordaFresco’s gelato, with flavors that alternate daily, does not come in a bucket. Rather, it is made on-site, Marzia emphasized.

Gelato is lighter than ice cream with less butterfat. It is made with more milk and less cream, and it has a silkier texture than ice cream and is served at a warmer temperature.

“We use very high-quality products,” Marzia said.

Fresco also offers gelatos for those who are lactose and gluten intolerant.

Nico immigrated to the U.S. with his family from the Puglia region of Italy when he was 11. He and Marzia moved to the area 15 years ago.

Marzia comes from a restaurant-owning family in Italy, born in the Lake Maggiore area in northern Italy, while Nico’s town of Mola di Bari is located in the southern peninsular section of the country, bordering the Adriatic Sea.

Prior to opening Pizza Gorda and Fresco, they owned a restaurant in Venice but sold it to open restaurants in Punta Gorda.

The couple also run a vacation tour agency called Best Tour Puglia.

Many wines sold at Fresco are from Puglia, Nico said.

Italian food and travel are passions the Candeloras say they want to share with others.

Their Italian wines are exclusive to Fresco and Pizza Gorda. “You cannot buy them at a Publix or Walmart,” Marzia said.

On one of his trips, Nico discovered a small vineyard that now sells exclusively to the couple for their restaurants, she said. Among the imported items the cook purchases are jarred and canned goods, including pesto, artichokes, eggplant, extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes and sauce.

There are Italian-imported packaged pastas in all shapes and sizes, and also packaged imported Italian cookies.

The freshly baked pastries, cakes and other dessert include croissants with chunks of dark chocolate baked into them, as well as berry croissants.

Fresco’s front porch is a gathering place for patrons who enjoy conversations with friends while sipping cappuccino, coffee, espresso or enjoying a gelato. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

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