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Pinocchio’s named in National Geographic’s top 10

By Staff | Apr 17, 2009

Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice cream has just been named in National Geographic’s “The 10 Best of Everything Families” ice cream category for the Gulfcoast region of America.

The owners Tom and Donna Puma are ecstatic over the national accolade.

“We’re definitely honored to know we were selected,” Tom Puma said.

The book is designed to be am entertaining, informative and practical planner for families traveling. It is organized thematically and regionally.

On busy days, the more than 30-year-old island ice cream shop draws throngs of customers willing to wait in some cases 45 minutes to bite into one of their more than 100 flavors of frozen confections.

The Puma family who has owned the popular ice cream shop for the past two years found out two weeks ago that they are listed in the National Geographic family traveling guide.

They are a popular staple on the island.

“I’m in there every week,” said Gloria Agel of the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center. “And my grandchildren love it. We get quite a few of our visitors asking for good, homemade ice cream and we only have a select few places to send them.”

The Pumas and their daughter Stephanie and son-in-law Alexander St. Johnston devote themselves to running the shop. Tom who sold his dental practice in NY and Donna who still works as an IBM consultant delight in sweet business they have nurtured.

“You have to be passionate about food to be in this business,” Donna Puma said.

Customer service and making knee quivering ice cream is always their goal.

Their signature flavors are Sanibel Krunch – a vanilla-based ice cream with chocolate enrobed toasted coconut and mixed nuts and the Dirty Sand Dollar – with caramel, malt, malted balls and chocolate chips.

These rich flavors along with others such as Purple Cow and Gator Stew have helped the Puma family scoop a name out for themselves in the ice cream world. Last year they created Wedding Bells, a vanilla-based ice cream with almond slivers in honor of their daughter’s Stephanie’s marriage. Pinocchios is in the process of creating a banana-based ice cream.

The Pumas’ who consider themselves foodies and consult with the likes of luxury chocolatier Norman Love will be going to Tuscany, Italy on a learning adventure soon. The couple has arranged to study gelato making techniques with an expert.

But their ice cream draws the crowd, its their relationship with folks that seems to keep it. Many of their customers are repeat and consider the Pumas like family.

Many customers even brought their daughter wedding presents.

“There are families that come here every night,” Tom Puma said. “During vacation this is the first and last place people go.”

Pinocchios is located at 362 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel. They can be contacted at 472-6566 or visited online at www.pinocchiosicecream.com.