Buona Terra, the good land — the land of gelato, sorbettos and crepes — opened in Mount Lookout just in time for the sweltering days of summer.
Owners Matt Wu, Eric Roeder and Stijn Van Woensel came up with the idea to bring a little taste of European street food to Cincinnati and wanted to create something creative and healthful, but not high-end.
“Stijn and I both love crepes,” Wu says. “It’s good French street food. The beauty of Paris is you get different cheeses. And you don’t know what they are — they’re just good. Why can’t the U.S. have that?”
After months of research, they chose to open their café on Mount Lookout Square in an old tailor’s shop, formerly Ramundo’s. It occurred to the three owners that they were placing a new gelateria in what was once an Italian tailor’s shop.
“We’ve thought about the irony of it,” Wu says.
Wu’s experience in the restaurant industry began at an early age when his parents owned a Chinese restaurant in Indiana.
“It was non-inspirational at best,” he says. “It was tiring, and we did it for survival.”
So Wu surprised his mother by returning to the restaurant industry. A chemical engineer by trade, Wu couldn’t escape his nature of wanting to create the perfect texture of gelato.
“There’s a science behind the gelato,” he says.
The ensuing, brief explanation of how different sugars contribute to the texture of gelato demonstrates his sheer enthusiasm for their craft. For the owners of Buona Terra, gelato is all about the pursuit of the perfect texture.
The owners hired a team of employees they can rely on to run the shop while the three partners maintain their day jobs.
“Unfortunately, we have to keep our day jobs for the time being because this is not going to pay our bills,” Wu says.
Each partner provides a different dynamic to the company, from designing and aesthetics to social media and public relations to research.
“We complement each other very well,” Wu says.
The ultimate focus for Buona Terra is all about the passion for food.
“Food is history, food is culture and food is philosophy,” Wu says. “And that’s why I’m so passionate about food.”
Inspired by local Ohio ice cream guru Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams — which offers “perennial” flavors such as double-toasted coconut and goat cheese with red cherries, along with limited editions — the owners of Buona Terra wanted to create wild flavor pairings, too.
“There are so many different things we want to do,” Roeder says. “We didn’t want to get too crazy too fast, but we’ve got a big display case. It gives us the flexibility to play around with flavors.”
The shop features 24 flavors of gelato and sorbetto daily. As for ingredients, it rotates flavors regularly, but maintains staples like caramel and chocolate. For the most part, availability of fresh produce will determine the gelato and sorbetto flavors.
“When we have fresh stuff, we make it,” Wu says. “There are certain things that will always be available, like pistachio that’s made from a paste that we source from Italy.”
They’re already making plans for up and coming fruits for next season.
“I’m looking forward to using pears,” Wu says. “That’s one of my favorite fruits, you know, like pear riesling.”
You’ll definitely see some unfamiliar gelato flavors, including Earl Grey and white chocolate lavender. They also offer several sorbetto flavors such as mango passion fruit, melon and blood orange.
The crepes are stuffed with your choice of sweet or savory ingredients. All of the combinations are simple, but very appealing. The Greco has spinach, tomato, goat cheese and a balsamic glaze ($7); and they couldn’t escape a classic street food crepe loaded with banana and Nutella, deemed the Belgian Breakfast ($5). They’ll also offer a featured crepe, like the Coconut Cream pie ($6) with optional berries or bananas.
With less than three months under their belt, the owners are already talking about growing their company within the community.
“We want to be part of the community,” Wu says. “We want to grow with the community. People give us suggestions and feedback, and we want to go and try to make it happen.
The big plan for Buona Terra is an ambitious green dream to build a sustainable building from the ground up. While we wait for that to happen, we can sit back and enjoy the ice-cold fruits of their labor.
Go: 1028 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout Square
Hours: 2-10 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, noon-10 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, noon-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday