The sisters at Sorella Gelateria have added a special ingredient to downtown Lexington.
Alma Kajtazovic and Selma Sulejmanagic opened the gelato shop at 219 N. Limestone last year, making it the only one of its kind in Lexington. Sorella, Italian for “sister,” serves up fresh gelato with authentic Italian flavor and technique.
“We wanted to have our own business. Selma has always wanted a restaurant. She loves creating food for people. I do the financial (part),” Alma said.
The two moved to the United States from Bosnia post-war in 1995 and attended the University of Kentucky. Selma traveled to Italy to learn how to make gelato, the sweet treat they grew up eating.
“It’s really fun. I wasn’t sure what I was walking into,” she said.
She worked at an Italian gelateria, learning everything she could about the process.
“I ate a lot of gelato,” she said.
She brought the trade back to the United States and put her own spin on things.
“The gelato gives (Selma) a chance to create something daily,” Alma said. “It’s best when it’s fresh, and we don’t like to create the same thing all the time.”
They love their historic storefront location, which sits near Sayre School and just around the corner from Transylvania University.
“We love the North Limestone revitalization. There are new businesses popping up, more restaurants are filling up the streets, hair salons, and a lot more retail. We love this neighborhood,” Alma said.
They usually have about 12 available flavors in the summertime, and about six in the winter. They serve up everything from raspberry to espresso to stracciatella, an Italian chocolate chip, and many are dairy-free options.
“We have Italian flavors, traditional American flavors and some are my flavors,” Selma said.
Selma said one of her favorites she’s produced was the Julep Cup, a sorbet mixed with mint julep mix and lots of fresh mint.
“It was perfection,” she said.
The difference between gelato and ice cream is the butterfat, she said. Gelato has a higher milk to cream ratio and has 50 percent less air than ice cream, leaving you feeling refreshed rather than thirsty. Gelato is also naturally gluten-free.
“It’s truly best when it comes out of the machine and you eat it 30 minutes later,” Alma said.
So they keep no inventory and make small batches daily of their product with Italian equipment. Selma said it resembles the culture of gelato in Italy – no chains, just mom and pop shops.
They take pride in using top-notch ingredients with no preservatives.
“It’s all about the fresh ingredients,” Selma said. “We use real fruit. And the pistachio flavor (for example) won’t be green because it’s made from pistachio butter.”
Alma said it’s a great opportunity to be female-owned business in downtown Lexington.
“We are also happy we get to do this together as sisters. Our mom and dad owned (a clothing alterations) business. The two of us getting to do this together is really great,” Alma said.
They love to support local non-profits, many of them causes to empower young women, Alma said. They’ve hosted several events with a percentage of the sales going back into a local charity.
“We’re super full of pride,” she said. “We’re prideful that we can own our own business and make a difference in the community.”