Jessica Mortarotti of Carmela Ice Cream & Sorbet
Carmela Ice Cream & Sorbet is a Los Angeles sweet treat. The brand is a celebration of local flavors and is at all times refreshing. Their white tiled, sunny West 3rd Street store is one of two locations for the brand and brings a quaint culinary sophistication to the East end of the street. “We make everything in our Pasadena creamery and then we bring it here,”founder Jessica Mortarotti explains. “Everything we make is always very fresh and seasonal.”
Mortarotti sits at a small table in the space after prepping the store to open for the day. The space feels simultaneously housed within warm Southern California but easily could be found in a busy square in Europe. It’s an understated, homey atmosphere that matches their equally understated and homey ice creams and sorbets. The brand is very easy to fall in love with.
Carmela was founded seven years ago by Mortarotti and her partner Zachary Cox. The idea was a bit unexpected as neither of them were in this industry before. It was a surprising path to take. “More or less, we woke up one day with the idea that we wanted to start an ice cream place,”she says. “I had never made ice cream in my life and had no idea how you make ice cream: it was a really wild idea to start an artisan craft food business. I knew the type of flavors and the vibe of a store and the quality that I wanted—but I had no idea how to do it.”
“The first challenge was learning to actually make ice cream,”she says with a laugh. “It was a pretty steep learning curve. We figured it out though and started running the business little by little.”
They got their start in shared kitchens catering to the farmers market audience and growing from there. They eventually landed a few wholesale accounts and organically grew to open a storefront in Pasadena. A little bit over a year ago, the brand opened their second location on West 3rd Street in a former clothing store.
“We’ve always been fans of West 3rd Street,”she explains. “It’s one of those LA pockets full of things that are really cool. It’s very centrally located, which we like a lot. When we first started Carmela, we were actually living in the area. When we moved our production to Pasadena, we moved to Alta Dena—and have been wanting to get back over here. A store on West 3rd is a natural second location.”
“The two locations are very different though,”she points out. “Here, our rushes are at night. There is definitely an evening energy. Pasadena is a little more suburban and more after school. We get an evening crowd but, over here, we have more of a city vibe.”
“Every location and everywhere Carmela is, we get to introduce our product to a different group of people. It’s a fun interesting puzzle. It’s always a different demographic and everything is a unique puzzle per location. We like the opportunity to be by more people and to get word out there, and near people who are doing similar things and with as much heart in their business.”
The plan is to keep things going and to maintain Carmela’s classic approach to the beloved sweet treat. Carmela strives to be timeless—and they want to be a timeless company. “We want to always provide the best product and best experience for our customer,”she says. “Our core is that relationship with our customers. We even have a back area of the store that we are in the process of repainting and redoing. We’ll probably start doing classes and movie nights and things that make it a more community focused space. We have a million ideas. There are ago many things we can do!”
“We want to make it fun,”she adds. “It’s ice cream.”
THOUGHTS ON THE STREET
“It’s really community oriented, which is great because it’s in the heart of the city. People are very human and humble. I love being a part of a group of great businesses who work really hard to do their thing.”
WHERE THEY SHOP
I think I did all my Christmas shopping on the street. I have been big fans of Joan’s. It’s such an inspiring space and story and a great flagship location. Toast is great and Gogosha is really cool too.