“I’ve always wanted to open up in Woodstock. I went to school here and it has a wonderful sense of community, so it feels right to be opening my first shop here,” 26 year-old Lewis Ratto tells me as he surveys his new ice cream parlour, which opens this week.
“Alfonso’s is for the locals first and foremost”
Salmon, grey and cream coloured with terrazzo flooring, Alfonso’s already looks the part of a genuine Italian ice cream parlour with gleaming counters, stools lined up against the walls, and its staff will be decked out in grey and white uniforms.
Serving Alfonso’s infamous home-made ice cream and sorbets, pastries, coffee, milkshakes and some legendary hot chocolate, fans can also expect a bigger variety of flavours, Lewis can’t wait to show you what’s in store. “There will be more choice, more seasonal flavours and themes as well as a click and collect service,” he says.
Which means that Lewis is currently concocting Christmas flavours to tempt us with alongside his classics such as chocolate, hazelnut, pistachio, salted caramel, vanilla and chocolate, with mango and strawberry sorbets always on the menu too.
“There will be 14 flavours with six specials that change regularly which you can buy or takeaway in tubs,” he tells me.
Specials will include Mint Stracciatella, Cappuccino, Dark chocolate, orange & almond Honeycomb, Ricotta & Cherry, Spiced Mixed Berries (and a very festive Brandy, Brown Butter & Raisin when he opens his doors next week.
Situated near the Co-Op where The Natural Bread Company used to be, Lewis says that Alfonso’s is for the locals first and foremost: “So many people here have used our delivery service since the first lockdown, so we’ve already got a strong customer base, who all seem to love my ice cream, because they order it over and over again,” he grins. “That’s the main thing for me, for my brand to be embedded in the community, although we hope for a healthy mix of tourists too.”
Lewis started Alfonso’s back in 2018 from his home in Kidlington, tasking his unmistakable ice cream tuk tuk to Summertown back in 2018, where it quickly became a firm favourite. (READ ABOUT IT HERE: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/fancy-some-ice-cream-or-sorbet-cant-get-out-then-all-your-prayers-have-been-answered-at-once-because-oxfordshires-alfonsos-gelateria-is-delivering/)
Lewis is Italian and utterly dedicated to the craft of ice cream making, having moved to the UK aged 17. Having attended The Marlborough School in Woodstock and then completed a chemistry degree, Lewis took on a job as a lab technician by day so that by night he could experiment with new ice cream flavours and perfect his technique, determined to one day open his own ice cream company.
“I’ve always been enterprising and wanted to do my own thing, so starting Alfonso’s made perfect sense,” he agrees.
“I’ll still have my tuk tuk in Summertown and my franchise at Victor’s at The Westgate in the summer, but when this shop came up in Woodstock – the perfect size and space – I jumped at the chance.”
So why now? “People care much more about their food, how it’s made and where it comes from these days. I don’t know if Alfonso’s would have worked 10 years ago but the whole artisan scene has exploded since then alongside the whole cafe culture ethos. So I hope the time is right,” Lewis says.
And for us novices, whats’ the difference between Italian gelato and English ice cream? “Gelato is softer and creamier. All my recipes are made with top quality ingredients and then tested over and over again to get the taste absolutely spot on. I don’t use bought in flavour bases like so many other ice cream makers do, everything is made from scratch.
As for the future, Alfonso has grand plans for pushing his brand out there. One day I’d like to open more shops around the UK but we’ll see. At the moment my concentration is 100% focused on my new shop.”
So how does Lewis feel standing in front of his own ice cream parlour? “It’s very unreal but I am so excited. I jus’t can’t wait to get in there and get started.”
For more info go to https://alfonsogelateria.com