We love it when it’s hot, we love it when it’s windy and cold and we especially love it when strolling by the beach. Gelato. Those old enough to remember, look back fondly of their first taste of the technicolored gelati at Guido’s Famous Gelato at the Bondi Pavilion.
When Gelato Messina opened its doors in Darlinghurst in 2002 Sydney siders started to look at gelati in a different way. Yes, there were great restaurants creating knockout natural gelati and sorbetto with authentic Italian ingredients but not like this.
With the arrival of Gelato Messina, lovers of the creamy or fruity iced confections started to get a whole lot more discerning. Now, because of Gelato Messina we seek out gelati made without artificial flavours and colours and with seasonal ingredients. Gelati, the true Sicilian way – creamy and full bodied with innovative flavours.
Gelato Messina’s 40 flavor combos and pun-laden names are part of the fun. Like Tinder Surprise – ‘Guaranteed to be love at first swipe, our gelato cake is ready for Valentine’s Day’. Or for the opening of the first Queensland store at Coolangatta, ‘Cool-in-Gatta’ is mango sorbet swirled with vanilla gelato and macadamia crunch.
The perennial favourite is Salted Caramel with White Chocolate but Pavlova – a delicious mix of vanilla bean gelato with raspberry and passionfruit puree and baked meringue is always popular. Or maybe ‘So Wrong it’s Right’ pushes your buttons – cream cheese and caramel gelato are smashed with chocolate potato chips and smothered in caramel sauce.
The love affair with gelati started at a young age for Nick Palumbo. All Sicilians share a love of food. As Nick says, Sicilians are always contemplating the next meal – “if a Sicilian isn’t eating or cooking, then they’re talking about food. No meal is complete without a discussion on what we’ll be eating at the next meal …”.
When Nick was 8 his parents took him to Messina in Sicily, to meet his grandparents for the first time. Soon after arriving, his grandfather shared with him his favourite pasticceria, Irrera. “It was only 9 am but he ordered me a granita di fragola con panna e brioche, a wild strawberry granita served with whipped cream and a brioche, which you dip into the granita and cream. I remember thinking how crazy it was, that we were eating this for breakfast! Thirty years on and I can still taste it, and if I had to pick one moment in my life when I discovered food, that was it”.
For Nick Palumbo Gelato Messina is a labour of love. He started the first store in Darlinghurst and after some ups and downs, got the business model just right and now there are stores in Sydney,Melbourne, Coolangatta, China and soon to open in Las Vegas. Today, his brother Danny, and Chef Donato Toce as well as Declan Lee are responsible for making Gelato Messina the success it is.
But any food business relies on repeat custom and that only happens when the product is made from quality ingredients. To that point, everything that goes into the gelato is made from scratch. The investment in equipment required was considerable, but everything from brownies to hazelnut paste are made in-house.
I asked the Gelato Messina team little about Gelato Messina.
Where did the inspiration for Gelato Messina come from?
“Nick used to work at Fererro (the makers of Nutella) and he often sites the way that company operates as a source of his inspiration. Knowledge of the product, using only the best ingredients and a constant urge to innovate and break boundaries is part of what Nick wanted to translate into Gelato Messina, something we hope is evident to our customers”.
Where are you planning to open new stores in 2015?
We have a store that is opening in Las Vegas in a few weeks. We’re also hopefully opening another store in Sydney before the end of the year”.
Tell me about who comes up with the fabulous flavour combinations?
“Our wonderful head Chef Donato Toce, is responsible for most of the creations however a lot of our flavours come from all sorts of places. The staff in the office are often responsible for the new flavours as well as a lot of good suggestions from our customers”.
For serious gelati lovers who want to try this at home, Nick released a book in 2013, ‘Gelato Messina – The Recipes’. (Hardie Grant Books).