CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – Up along Bridge Road in South Hills, a small neighborhood of Charleston, you can find true, authentic Italian gelato. Caffe Romeo is a small mom and pop shop that opened in 2017 offering a wide variety of gelato flavors, Italian espresso, pastries and coffee beans and pods blended in an antique Neapolitan fashion.

Owner Mario Sommella, a master to the gelato-making craft, has been making gelato for over 25 years. He began the trade in his home city of Napoli, Italy – located in the southern region of Campania.

It was Napoli where Mario met his wife 15 years ago, the two fell in love, got married and had two children.

Mario and Melissa Sommella on their wedding day.

Mario’s wife, Melissa, is originally from Charleston, West Virginia, but decided to live out an adventure by moving to Italy. She would be the connection in bringing Italiano gelato to the Charleston area for the first time.

In 2015, Mario and his family moved to Washington D.C. where they would live for about a year. Mario began work as a sales consultant but had bigger dreams.

“I said to my wife, ‘I think I want to leave this kind of job and move to Charleston because Charleston has no gelateria, no authentic gelato shop, no authentic gelato, I think it could be like a good idea,'” said Mario.

That dream became a reality in June 2017 when CAFFE ROMEO opened its doors.

“The name is the name of my first son, and Romeo is like the name of the famous story in Italy, Romeo and Juliet.”

“I meet many people that tell me it was a risky idea because everyone thinks West Virginia is a hard place to make business, the economy isn’t going super well, but I also believe that it depends how you look at the world in perspective,” said Mario.

Mario puts the craft in craftsmanship when it comes to making his home-made gelato. Over the last two years, Mario has served more than 60 flavors of gelato, along with their own Italian coffee beans and espresso.

A shot of CAFFE ROMEO’s espresso

“That’s me, I always have new ideas, I want to make new projects, I always want to change the world, so I think the United States is the right place for me, and you know, it seems like it is,” said Mario.

Caffe Romeo is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 am until 9 pm. You can check them out on Facebook or stop by the shop at 1026 Bridge Road, Charleston, West Virginia 25314.

Mario and his two children, Juanita and Romeo