LAFAYETTE, La. (IND) – What better way to seize the day than by starting it with a shot of espresso alongside a cup of white chocolate strawberry gelato? Probably by substituting blood orange sorbetto and tiramisu at lunch and dinner.

For Silvia Bertolazzi, gelato is more than just a favorite dessert, it’s a way of life. The Italian-American gelato connoisseur decided to bring her love of Italian-style ice cream to downtown Lafayette when she opened Carpe Diem! Gelato – Espresso Bar with her business partner Erik Graveson nearly two years ago.

And with its auspicious location along the charismatic 800 block of Jefferson Street it’s quickly becoming a can’t-miss retreat for anyone passing through downtown’s southern mouth.

“In Italy, we eat gelato every day,” says Silvia. “So it’s not just something to eat; it’s also like a social thing. People get together and they have gelato, and it’s just part of everyday life over there. And I just never had it coming here to America. So for me, I always had to go back home and eat it in Italy. So one day I just realized why don’t we just open one here.”

That particular cultural exchange seems to be one that’s been vehemently embraced by Carpe-Diem’s steady roster of regulars, which spans from the poets and writers encamped at the front corner table to the eclectic ensemble of musicians often front and center at the shop’s patio with impromptu concerts.

” I think it’s the energy,” says Silvia, gesturing to the flow of customers steadily filling up the remaining swath of the bistro. “It’s almost like when people get together here all these amazing things happen. It’s all of this artsy energy that gets together and it just kind of creates this incredible vibe.”

Silvia came to Lafayette almost 21 years ago “for love,” and while the relationship didn’t last, her romance with Lafayette has endured. “I immediately bonded with this city and the people,” she says. “I can’t imagine a better place to live than Lafayette. I still go home every year, all my family is in Italy – but Lafayette has become my home, and I love it.”

[This article originally appeared as part of the Cool Town cover story in the Feb. 28, 2013 edition of the Independent and]