During a heatwave there is nothing quite as satisfying as a cool ice cream - and staff at Alfonso Gelateria have been run off their feet.

Of course they welcome the queues - the sunshine is great for business and not surprisingly the demand from customers hasn’t stopped during the recent record temperatures.

Italian-born Lewis Ratto started the business in 2018 and he and his team have been building a loyal following ever since.

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With a shop in Woodstock and a food truck in Summertown, Mr Ratto is looking to expand and a new branch in Witney is on the cards.Oxford Mail:

After growing up near Rome, Mr Ratto - whose middle name is Alfonso - relocated to the UK in 2010.

Memories of enjoying gelato in Italy gave him the idea of setting up his own business and he decided to try out a food truck.

Mr Ratto, 27, said: “Customers in Summertown really like the idea - they have definitely taken to it but now our plan is to focus more on shops.

“This is my business - my dad works at Royal Mail - my parents are both very supportive and I think they are impressed with how it’s going so far.”

Mr Ratto said the business is ‘unseasonal’ and although sales rocket during a heatwave, customers also buy gelato in the rain and snow.

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He added: “It has been a little bit crazy lately but we do get sales all year round.

Oxford Mail:

“We are hoping to open a new shop in the Marriotts Walk area of Witney and we probably will open in Oxford when the right unit becomes available.”

There is of course competition when it comes to selling ice cream in Oxford - iScream gelateria in the Covered Market and George and Davis in Little Clarendon Street, are well established and there are lots of other ice cream sellers too.

But Mr Ratto is confident that as different businesses work in different ways he will be able to provide something special that customers want.

Oxford Mail:

“People are always queuing up in Summertown,” he said. “Especially at the weekend.”

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After finishing his degree in chemistry in 2015, Mr Ratto began experimenting with ice cream recipes.

Flavours he has tried out to date include vanilla, chocolate, salted caramel, hazelnut, pistachio, lemon cheesecake, dark chocolate, banoffee, coffee, tiramisu and nutella.

It’s a competitive market in Oxford - there is also Swoon Gelato in High Street - but Alfonso Gelateria’s business is growing fast and is likely to be around for a long time to come.

There are now nine full and part-time staff working for Mr Ratto in Woodstock and Summertown.

For more information visit the website alfonsogelateria.com.