Don’t be surprised if nobody is working behind the counter when you walk into Gelato Cafe, just keep an eye out for the man in the apron. His name is Brian Wetzel, and he might be pouring cocktails tableside, sitting at a laptop in the corner discussing the stock market with customers or helping a few of the female patrons relax.
“If I wasn’t talking to you right now, I’d be giving all three of those girls a little shoulder rub,” he said, gesturing to a nearby table.
Wetzel was born in Wisconsin, but moved to Idaho as a boy in 1974. In 1982 while still in high school, he took a job washing dishes at Lock Stock & Barrel. Before long, he was bussing tables and then moved on to cooking. He remained there for 20 years, and was the restaurant manager for more than half of that time.
Eventually, Wetzel went back to school to study finance. After getting his degree, he started working at Principal Financial Group and spent his nights cooking and tending bar at several local institutions, including Crescent Bar & Grill, Cottonwood Grille and Gil’s K-9 Bar.
Eventually, Wetzel's name came up for a liquor license and he bought Gelato Cafe at 2053 E. Fairview Ave., Ste. 101, from its previous owners Scott and Joy Caisse. He kept the menu much the same (Joy still makes the gelato), but completely revamped the sushi selection and added a signature item: the gelato martini.
And Wetzel’s method of advertising his new concoction was as unique as the drink itself: When last-minute red tape delayed his new liquor license beyond the grand opening, he contacted the powers that be.
“I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got all this liquor; while I’m waiting for my permit, can I give away booze?'” he recalled.
Since there were no regulations to prevent it, he started passing out samples to his diners. By the time his license was in good order, he knew he had a winning concoction.
June 2012 will mark Wetzel’s fourth year as proprietor of Gelato Cafe, a place where he spends 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week. He has a 19-year-old daughter attending Idaho State University. He is still a stockbroker, and keeps a computer set up near the counter so he can do some trading and advise clients when the restaurant's traffic is slow. Wetzel is also certified as a teacher, but much prefers running a restaurant and bar.
“Teaching ain’t that fun; too much regulation; too many bratty kids. In the bar business, I can haul them out.”
How do you take your coffee?
I’m a raspberry mocha guy. I’m not a big coffee drinker, but I have a sweet tooth.
What is your favorite food/restaurant scene in a movie?
Caddyshack, when Spaulding is walking around drinking everybody’s drinks and then he runs outside and pukes in Doctor’s sunroof. I quote Caddyshack all the time.
What food could you eat every day?
I eat sushi almost every day. I don’t like to throw shit away, so if I have something that I don’t think will make it to the next day, I just make a sushi roll out of it.