Sarah and Kevin Gleba of Englewood’s A Better Scoop ice cream shop could’ve been speaking for many other eatery owners when they said, “We don’t like change, especially one we have no control over.”
A BETTER SCOOP CHURNS IT THEIR WAY
A year ago, without warning, A Better Scoop, the No. 1 TripAdvisor-rated ice cream shop in Englewood, lost its supplier — Working Cow of St. Petersburg.
Investigations of foodborne listeriosis had led the FDA to suspend Working Cow’s license. More than a year’s worth of its ice cream, made between Aug. 29, 2017, and Oct. 11, 2018, was recalled.
Whether or not they admit it to the public, as the Glebas do, many local “homemade” ice creameries rely entirely on outside distributors like Working Cow, Big Olaf and Hershey’s. A recall is serious business.
For safety’s sake, Sarah and Kevin returned all their stock and shut their doors until they could figure out what to do.
A new supplier, Royal Scoop Homemade Ice Cream of Bonita Springs, bailed them out and still provides a couple of their flavors, but the Glebas decided they couldn’t afford to be wholly dependent again.
“We realized we had to be in control,” said Sarah.
It was time to make their own ice cream brand.
Though the Glebas didn’t know it, they were repeating local ice cream history.
In the wake of 2015’s Blue Bell recalls, Ron and Claudia Thomas of Punta Gorda’s Harborwalk Scoops & Bites started churning their own with 16 flavors and ended up rising to the top of TripAdvisor’s list of best ice cream shops in America.
This year, Kevin Gleba quit his day job to become a full-time ice cream maker, now manufacturing 30 flavors with the best local ingredients, in a spotless new Englewood shop/wholesale creamery: The Arctic Alligator.
“There’s no other ice cream store in the United States making ice cream exactly like we do,” he said proudly.
That’s partly because many flavors owe their ingredients to a cadre of local small businesses — Cappuccino Kahlua and Coffee made with Englewood’s Joe Maxx Coffee Company espresso; Cinnamon Honey straight from Queen Bee Honey‘s pesticide-free Placida hives; Strawberry, using strawberry jam from Southern Yankee Canned Goods; and Rum Raisin soaked in Cape Coral-distilled Wicked Dolphin.
In a delicious twist of poetic justice, it turns out that the Alligator opened one year to the day after Working Cow froze its sales. The Glebas are starting slow, distributing to a handful of local shops and restaurants, and have no grand ambitions. But what if Arctic Alligator became the new Working Cow?
Arctic Alligator Creamery ($), 941-460-3647, 3385 S. Access Road, Englewood, is open Tuesday to Friday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday noon to 9 p.m., Sunday noon to 8 p.m. Its parent, A Better Scoop ($), 941-473-2650, 70 S. Indiana Ave., Englewood, is open daily from 12:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
PUNTA GORDA’S FINER DINER
Nearly 18 months ago, rumors swirled about a new Punta Gorda Diner taking over the shuttered 3,850-square-foot Burnt Store Grille space.
Actually getting the place open has been a painfully long and costly trip, with many unforeseen roadblocks for co-owners Kimberly Hartnett and Richard Romesburg.
Faux-driftwood flooring, all-new booths and tables, fresh paint, and beachy wall décor hit your eyes first, but every invisible inch had to be gutted, from framing to drywall, panels, lighting, plumbing, electric and kitchen equipment.
Now they’re happy to have some cash coming in for a change.
Hartnett, who brings 46 years’ restaurant service and management experience to the job, and former Pittsburgh colleague Chef John Vennare have prepped staff to serve in what Vennare styles as “an upscale diner.”
In other words, finer diner food, with fair prices.
“It’s not meatloaf and stuffed peppers,” he said. “For instance, we’re using top-quality Oakes Farms Market produce.”
Although Vennare’s 16-year Pittsburgh restaurant, Caffé Giovanni, is now closed, a reviewer there reported that Chef John’s fans loved him for his “straightforward, simply prepared and reasonably priced classic Italian dishes.”
For the Punta Gorda Diner, he’s crafted an eclectic menu that’s skillfully prepared, often elegant and equally straightforward without overwhelming a fledgling kitchen.
His list of “Kicked Up Bennys”— part of a breakfast that’s served until 2 p.m. daily — includes Oscar’s Affair, topped with a petite filet and crab cake on a fried green tomato instead of English muffin.
In fact, the entire breakfast menu was designed to wow. How can you choose when you’re faced with real cheese blintzes, sticky-bun waffle topped with pecan praline, Bayou omelet with blackened shrimp and sausage, and French toast stuffed with coconut cream and topped with strawberries and bananas Foster?
Dinner entrées include Chef John’s Italian specialties, but also shrimp with stone-ground creamy grits, crab cakes, and a garlic honey-glazed pork chop with caramelized apples.
“We wanted to, as Emeril says, kick it up a notch,” said the chef.
Punta Gorda Diner ($-$$), 941-205-8966, 3941 Tamiami Trail (near Burnt Store Promenade Publix), is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with a special Sunday buffet.