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Gelato unplugged: a (not) icecream dream

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Royal Ice first appeared in Cravings magazine

It’s way too freezing for icy treats, but this was too delicious not to share.

I wrote this article for Cravings magazine, and am also sharing some of their amazing photography. Delicious, right?

So let’s get one thing straight: Gelato is not icecream.

Get that bit wrong, and Carmelo Messina, a gelato artisan with 39 years of experience, will really give you an earful.

Gelato is an Italian word that roughly translates to “icecream,” but only because we have nothing but icecream to compare it with.

Gelato has more form than icecream, more texture. It’s richer, denser, and creamier, but contains less fat.

And it’s an authentic Italian experience now increasingly available on Perth’s streets.


We’re all one, we can all eat gelato!

“People want to rekindle their memories of traveling in Italy,” says Izzi Messina, son of Carmelo and co-founder of the Perth-based Gelatino gelaterias. “People want to experience the Italian way of life.”

“In Italy there’ll be about ten gelaterias right next to each other,” explains Melissa Romano, his business and life partner.

“They’re open till ten, eleven at night. We have gelato kiosks on the beach, with little buggies driving around selling it. It’s a lifestyle.”

Izzi and Melissa launched Gelatino in 2005, and Carmelo’s sumptuous gelato is already sweeping the state. “In summer in Freo we’ll stay open till twelve or one,” says Melissa. “We’ve gone through 4800 litres of gelato in one week. At the Rottnest store people will queue for 45 metres in the summer.”


“Normally the fat in icecream lines your taste buds, so your absorption of flavour isn’t as strong. Gelato is on average 94% fat free, so you get the true flavour” Izzi Messina

The couple buzz with passion for their families, for Italy and its culture, for its lifestyle and its gelati.

“We’re very proud of being Italian,” enthuses Izzi. “My family has been in the food industry since day dot. They had a gelato bar in Catania and a bar in Augusta. Dad’s still got my grandfather’s recipe book.

“Its pages have gone brown, it’s marked with egg white, with sugar; its pages are stuck together. I would be destroyed if Dad lost that.”

Ask for their favourite flavour, and they erupt into mouth-watering debate.

Melissa opts for donatella (“hazelnut with nuts wrapped in chocolate”) while Izzi favours passionfruit sorbet. Other favourites include coconut, tiramisu, blood orange sorbet (“that’s a real Sicilian favorite!”), and real banana (“see how it’s gray, not yellow”).

“Dad’s really creative,” says Izzi. “We’ve done a lemon, lime, basil and vodka flavour. He’s done beer sorbet. He’s done wine, fig…he’s done prickly pear and Parmesan…prickly pear is a hard one to make. But he’ll do it all by hand. He’ll roast his own pistachio nuts. His crusher is at least 30 or 40 years old.”

A scoop of Italy

Sicily, say the couple, is the world’s premier gelato destination.

“It’s the jewel of the Mediterranean. The Sicilians are famous for their desserts, hands down. Sorbet is very, very popular down there. We manufacture gelati differently in different regions. It all comes down to the artisan.”

“It’s all made by hand,” says Izzi. “Each artisan has little tricks that differentiate their products. Dad’s been making gelato since he was 14; that’s four generations in my family, all Messinas, all making gelato.”

IMG_7427By the bucket!

Certain flavours or new gelato experiences can rekindle old memories, says Izzi.

“As kids we used to sit on a wall my grandfather built, eating gelato from plastic cups. In Italy we would drive about 15 kays to a gelateria up in the hills, and all of us would sit, eating our gelato.”

“In 1996 I stayed in Sicily with my grandparents, we lived in Catania, with Mount Etna directly behind us and snow-capped…at night sometimes the lava used to flow. In the morning a little van would come past, ringing its bell, selling brioche for breakfast. A brioche is a sweet bread, split in half and stuffed with gelato…for breakfast!

“Everyone would come out on to their balconies and send down a bucket. What’s the point of going downstairs? Put the money in, send down the bucket, and then pull up your breakfast! Every morning.

“They still do it today…what a lifestyle! We want people here to experience some of that.”

You say gelato, I say…

‘Gelati’ is the plural of ‘gelato’, which comes from the Italian word ‘gelare’, meaning ‘to freeze’.

  • Gelato is made from milk, sugar, fresh fruit and other goodies, all whipped up to contain only around 35% air, leaving you with a denser, creamier texture. At around four percent fat, gelato doesn’t qualify as an ‘icecream.’
  • Icecream must contain more than 10% fat and can contain around 90% air.
  • Sorbet is a non-dairy water-based version of gelato, containing more sugar and less fat.
  • Granita is a flavored slushy ice that must be churned before serving, usually made from sugar syrup and fruit juice.

Yum! So why wait for summer?

I’m heading to Rottnest this month for a winter writing retreat… I think a little gelato goodness might be in order.

Author: cristyburne


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