For one New Braunfels doctor, your prescription is more likely to read “a scoop of vanilla a day” than some list of pills.
Peter Palmieri, owner and founder of Zenzero Artisan Gelato, traded in his white coat for an apron about three years ago, building up the successful dessert store located off of FM 306 near the H-E-B Plus catty-corner from Bucc-ee’s.
Born in Washington, Palmieri spent his childhood in Trieste, Italy until the age of 14. Palmieri recalls happy memories of eating gelato while growing up in Italy, enjoying the dessert’s richness.
“My favorite flavor is amarena, (an Italian cherry flavor), that is the one I would get as a boy,” Palmieri said, gesturing to a tub of silky white gelato peppered with glistening red cherries in his shop’s display window.
At 14, Palmieri and his family moved to California, where he attended high school before going on to study pre-medicine at the University of California San Diego.
Post-grad, Palmieri attended medical school in Chicago at Loyola University, where he also did his residency. It was during this time in medical school when Palmieri met his wife, a fellow medical student who grew up in Mexico.
“I became a pediatrician and she went on to become a pathologist,” Palmieri said. “I don’t know if I was bringing joy to kids before, that’s why I’m making up for it now,” he said with a laugh.
During his 20-plus years of practicing medicine, Palmieri also started to experiment with gelato, picking up gelato-making as a hobby.
“I got a little machine and started trying to make it at home, and sometimes I was successful, sometimes not,” Palmieri said. “Gradually I got a little better machine, and the gelato came out better, and then I got a bigger and better machine, and it kept coming out better.”
Ultimately, it was the closeness of Texas to Mexico that brough Palmieri and his wife permanently to Texas, Palmieri said.
“My wife, she’s from Mexico and after spending quite a few winters in Chicago, she said, ‘That’s it, we have to go somewhere warm,’” Palmieri said smiling. “She was offered a fellowship at UTMB in Galveston so we moved to the Clear Lake area.”
After living all over Texas — Houston, Dallas and the Rio Grande Valley — the couple chose New Braunfels as where they’d want to live to eventually retire.
In 2016, with their three children and his wife fully supporting his decision, Palmieri decided he wanted to make the career switch into fulltime gelato making.
“My wife and I both went to get training in gelato, we did a gelato university kind of deal,” Palmieri said.
As a doctor, Palmieri dedicated himself to making a natural product that didn’t use any preservatives or artificial flavorings; he’d seen what the effect of those kinds of products was on a body.
“In Italy, Gelato is considered a wholesome food made with pure ingredients — basically we Italians take a lot of pride in our cuisine,” Palmieri said. “Gelato is the signature dessert in Italy, and people eat it almost daily in the summertime but in small portions.”
Palmieri still very much enjoys experimenting with gelato flavors, trying out both traditional Italian flavors as well as some unique flavors.
“When we come up with a new flavor, you have to balance the components so you get a good texture, and there’s a lot of math that goes into it … we were taught to do it by hand … and then our son created an app to help us with it,” Palmieri said.
Palmieri said bringing joy to his customers and getting to talk with them is one of his favorite parts of business.
“We start every day by making gelato,” Palmieri said. “I really enjoy chatting with customers in a relaxed atmosphere.”
Zenzero is open from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. It is closed on Mondays.
For more information about Zenzero visit www.zenzeroartisangelato-ice-cream.business.site or call 830-499-8344.