Everyone’s favourite Italian gelato is getting a makeover, moving away from classic flavours and catering to experimental consumer palates. With options of vegan, keto-friendly and sugar-free variants, it has amassed wider appeal. Gelato makers are adding a touch of India with ingredients like Nagpur orange, filter coffee and jaggery. Now, following in the footsteps of gelaterias in Italy, these creamy scoops are making their way into bakes—stuffed into warm brioche buns, or maritozzi (Italian buns traditionally filled with sweet cream), sandwiched between chunky cookies, and even paired with croissants.
Take, for example, Affogato, a newly launched gelateria in Mumbai. Apart from regular scoops, you can enjoy artisanal gelatos like stuffed bombolinis (Italian doughnuts), croissant sundaes and gelato sandwiched between shortbread biscuits. Bengaluru’s premium dining restaurant, LUPA, has an artisanal gelato bar, with flavours ranging from the boozy lemon and prosecco to a nuanced strawberry and balsamic vinegar gelato, burnt butter and caramel, and a classic stracciatella. On weekends, their brunch menu offers a selection of gelato sundaes. The restaurant also houses a mini lab where they experiment with flavours and churn out gelato using a vintage Italian machine.
Some of my most memorable tastings have involved scoops of tub tim grob-flavoured gelato (a traditional creamy, coconut-based Thai dessert) studded with ruby-hued pieces of water chestnut and tapioca starch, an intensely dark chocolate gelato, and a fruity and zingy peach and passionfruit sorbet—all flavours available at Mumbai’s Cremeyum Creamery.
Shalini Rattan, founder of Cremeyum Creamery and co-founder, Affogato, believes Indians today “are much more well-travelled and their palates are experimental”. More and more people want to sample diverse flavours and gelato serves as the perfect vehicle for this, she notes, adding that it has lower fat content than ice cream. Some of her experiments include avocado and matcha gelato, Irish coffee, black sesame, even liquorice.
In Gurugram, Haryana, at the Wild & Raw smoothie and juice bar by OMO Cafe, you can find gelatos with ingredients such as Karnataka vanilla, sattu (roasted Bengal gram flour) and jaggery, milk and bread, burnt butter gelato and ngarum coffee-flavoured gelato, using beans sourced from Nagaland.
Chef Rachi Gupta, who runs The Gelato Bar in Mumbai, also offers cookie and croissant gelato sandwiches, warm brioche buns stuffed with gelato as well as brookies (a mix between brownies and cookies). In Gupta’s case, it was her travels across Italy that inspired her to marry two favourites—gelato and bakes. “In Italy, especially during the winter months, it’s not uncommon to find people having something warm with their gelato. So, you will find brioche buns paired with gelato, and even little croissants, locally known as cornetto,” she says. Her experiments include a vegan orange sorbet using Nagpur oranges, filter kaapi gelato, aam panna sorbet and a pineapple and mint sorbet. “Nearly two out of five customers who visit us want to try gelato paired with bakes.”
Mumbai-based Coppetto Artisan Gelato has launched maritozzo buns sandwiched with gelato. Nikhil Jain, founder of the gelateria chain, hopes to reach a wider audience, especially those looking for something that isn’t overly sweet.
Arzoo Dina is a Mumbai-based food and travel writer.