Mary Stanley, Owner, The Turtle Enoteca, Brownwood, Texas

Gelato may have originated in Italy but some of the best gelato in the United States is made in Brownwood, Texas, where The Turtle Enoteca is ranked among the top 20 gelato makers in the U.S. and 115th worldwide by Italy’s Gelato Festival, the global authority on Italian gelato.

Owner and gelato artisan Mary Stanley crafts 60-plus rotating flavors of gelato and sorbetto for the pans in the gelateria’s mahogany and brass Panorama gelato case.

The Perfect Purée Green Apple Puree inspired one of Mary’s most popular flavors, Apple Strudel Gelato. Originally intended for a salad dressing, the purée ended up in a strudel.

“Part of it didn’t sell so I dumped it into a neutral gelato base to see if I could move it. That sold!” she says. “So then I had to make it again without the actual strudel which would have been both time consuming and costly.”

The Turtle’s go-to flavor is The Perfect Purée Red Raspberry Puree, followed by Strawberry and Coconut Puree in the gelateria, the bakery and the restaurant. At the bar, Coconut Puree and Pomegranate Concentrate are used in cocktails. Mary, also a wine buyer, Italian-trained pasta maker and chocolatier, studied with master chocolatier Jean-Pierre Wybauw and learned the art of entremets from Spanish master Ramon Morato. She makes chocolates for The Turtle with Ginger Puree, Lemon Zest, and Orange Zest.

“I find The Perfect Purée especially useful when various fruits are out of season, and to provide consistency and save labor. There are so many ways we’ve used it, I can’t even remember them all,” she says.

The Turtle’s name originates from its philosophy.

“We were early admirers of the Slow Food movement founded by Carlo Petrini,” explains Mary, though for obvious reasons she couldn’t adopt Slow Food’s symbol of the snail. Plus, Americans aren’t so fond of snails, she says. She acknowledges that because of The Turtle’s central Texas location, it is hard to be a slow food purist.

“The Turtle pretty much universally symbolizes persistence and longevity. Lord knows you need the first to be successful and pray for the second in the restaurant business,” Mary says.

A local gem and a Texas foodie destination, The Turtle is also a wine bar and received two stars on the 2017 and 2018 World’s Best Wine Lists from the British quarterly World of Fine Wine. In 2010, The Turtle’s wine list received an award of distinction from Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

The Turtle Gelateria was a finalist in the North American Stage of the Gelato World Tour and a participant in the finals in Rimini, Italy, in 2014. In 2018, Mary’s original flavor, Hill Country Lemon Lavender, won a silver medal at Gelato Festival, Dallas.