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A pastry chef shares a gelato guide to Italy

Pastry chef Rachi Gupta spent months in Italy to learn gelato making. In an interview, she talks about how to find the authentic Italian delicacy

Chef Rachi Gupta
Chef Rachi Gupta

Chef Rachi Gupta’s fascination with gelato began in childhood. The Mumbai-based chef enrolled herself at Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna to learn more about this Italian delicacy. It allowed her to delve into the world of natural and fresh ingredients, the essence of true Italian gelato. She visited various regions, including Rome, Venice, Verona, Florence, Naples, and the enchanting Amalfi Coast.

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Italy’s diverse landscapes and ingredients result in unique gelato profiles across different regions. She says, Sicilian gelato prominently features flavours like pistachio and almond, owing to the abundance of these nuts in the region; in Florence, renowned for its “gelato artigianale,” gelato artisans take pride in crafting their creations using high-quality ingredients and traditional methods; in Piedmont, nestled in northern Italy, Stracciatella takes the spotlight—a creamy gelato adorned with fine, delicate chocolate shavings; Naples, on the other hand, celebrates simplicity with Fior di Latte, a delightful gelato made from pure milk and sugar, highlighting the creamy essence of fresh milk; and along the sun-kissed Amalfi Coast, lemon sorbet is a star, with fragrant sorbets made from locally grown lemons.

Gupta who runs The Bread Bar in Mumbai, opened The Gelato Bar in Bandra this year and offers a range of gelatos that imbibes Indian flavours, like filter coffee. She says authentic Italian gelato stands out through several distinctive features. It has lower fat content, resulting in a noticeably smoother texture compared to conventional ice cream. It delivers intense and true-to-nature flavours. Ice cream, on the other hand, typically contains higher levels of fat and air, which contribute to its creamier consistency.

“One of the key ways to identify authentic Italian gelato is by its refined sensory qualities. While you may not notice it at first, with time and experience, you’ll pick up a distinct lack of a powdery aftertaste often associated with large-scale ice cream brands. When you encounter and savour authentic Italian gelato, your senses will recognise a transformative mouthfeel that is smooth, velvety, and characterized by exceptionally intense flavours.,” she explains.

In an interview with Lounge, she talks about her time in Italy and shares the best places to sample top quality gelato. Edited excerpts:

1. What are your favourite gelato experiences from your time in Italy?

There was an exceptional gelato that defied my expectations. It was called Santorini, a masterpiece featuring a ricotta base infused with delicate cookies, brightened by the zest of oranges and the crunch of pistachios. It was fresh, light, and truly unforgettable. I was surprised by savoury gelatos in flavours like pesto, Parmigiano Reggiano and pecorino.

2. How did your time in Italy influence the way you approach making gelato?

It had a deep impact. It taught me to adapt Italian techniques and incorporate local Indian ingredients effectively. One notable influence was observing how Italian gelato shops often served their products alongside items like brioche, coffee, hot chocolate and crepes, enriching the overall experience. This inspired me to diversify, and we introduced innovative creations like gelato sandwiches and gelato sundaes, featuring brioche, cookies and other complementary elements. This broader menu expanded our customers’ choices and set us apart in a market that had traditionally focused solely on ice cream and milkshakes. My time there was creatively enriching.

3. Can you share some tips to find the best gelato in Italy?

- Look for gelato artigianale: Seek out gelaterias that proudly advertise “gelato artigianale” or artisanal gelato. This indicates a commitment to crafting high-quality gelato using handmade techniques with traditional methods and premium ingredients.

- Ingredient list and proper storage: A reputable gelateria should prominently display its ingredient list. Opt for gelato made with simple, natural ingredients, and be wary of excessive additives or artificial flavours. Take note of how gelato is stored. It should be kept in covered metal containers rather than piled high in vibrant mounds. Proper storage practices reflect a commitment to maintaining freshness and quality.

- Getting the flavour right: Fresher gelato often boasts a more intense flavour profile. Choose gelaterias that regularly replenish their gelato, as this demonstrates their dedication to serving fresh, delectable creations. Gelaterias offering season-specific flavours tend to emphasise the use of fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Don’t miss the opportunity to savour seasonal gelato creations.

- Seek recommendations: Ask the gelateria’s staff for their suggestions to discover regional specialities and the freshest flavours.

- Natural colours matter: Pay attention to the colours of the gelato. Vibrant, natural hues are typically a sign of high-quality gelato, while excessively bright or uniform colours may indicate the presence of artificial additives. For example, authentic pistachio gelato should have a dull green colour, not a bright green one.

- Explore beyond tourist areas: In places crowded with tourists, you might come across gelato shops that prioritise convenience over quality. Venture slightly off the beaten path to discover hidden gems and authentic gelato experiences. Ultimately, trust your taste buds and sensory perceptions. Exceptional gelato should exhibit a rich, creamy texture, bursting with the natural flavours of its ingredients.

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