In Italy summers are pretty hot and it stays nice and warm on most evenings. After spending the day evaluating so many products in the new Campomaggi collection, I was ready to chill with a nice gelato. Actually, that night I was in the mood for an even more refreshing granita and decided to try a new ice cream shop with Emi and Chiara. Sidebar: after we arrived in Italy we quickly discovered that Marco would also like to have gelato and he gets really, really upset that he can’t have any yet so we waited until he fell asleep.
We went to Affresco, which turns out to be one of many independently owned gelaterie that draw on the experience of renowned Italian gelato craftspeople and a team of people who design the store layout.
When I finally (the line was long) got my granita (shaved ice) all menta (mint) I was astounded. I was quickly reminded, yet again, of the difference between a mass-produced product and one carefully refined by people who care. I was expecting the usual crushed ice with mint flavored sugary syrup. Maybe they were able to trick me with a syrup that finally tasted like it was made from fresh mint leaves. I have lots of mint in my yard and what I got tasted exactly like it and I am convinced that it was actually made from fresh mint leaves. The ice was also finely crushed and the product was very enjoyable and refreshing: exactly as I had envisioned.
This is the experience that I want to provide to my customers. When a product is made by people who care enough to seek and use the best ingredients for their work, and use skills developed over a lifetime aided by generations of refinements, the outcome is usually a notch or two better than the mass produced imitation.
On our last day shopping in Milan our list was almost complete. Only one thing still needed crossing off the list: finding a cool t-shirt that said something cool in Italian.
We were shopping in Corso Buenos Aires, the long avenue between Loreto and Porta Venezia that has always been packed with shops. The difference between 20-30 years ago and today is that so many, if not all, the mom and pop shops that sold Made in Italy clothing have been replaced by affordable and somewhat trendy chain stores displaying imported clothes with all prints in English, or French. Nothing wrong with that, except that we were not making any progress on our goal.
Feeling that time was running out, Emi went shopping while Chiara and I naturally gravitated toward the very long line outside of an ice cream shop. When I read that the ice cream was handmade of natuaral, real, what-we-say-it-is-is-actually-what-is-in-it ingredients I was hooked.
Before our turn came I had plenty of time to pull up the Grom web site. Grom has stores worldwide and it seems that its recipe of getting good ingredients from organic farms to make really good gelato can be replicated. The smile on Chiara’s face as she tasted vanilla ice cream (gelato alla vaniglia) that actually tasted like vanilla was priceless. I am a Grom fan now.
Today I turned 39 and I went to the office where my birthday was officially forgotten. Then, when I had lost all hope of any birthday treats, I got called into a meeting that turned out to be a meeting about the announcement that we were about to go to Cafe` Campbell for some gelato. Because it’s my birthday, of course.
Well, I don’t scream for ice cream but I do scream for real gelato. And Cafe` Campbell offers the kind of selection of gelato that I got used to when I lived in Italy. They even offer my favorite flavors: bacio and cocco. But today I found something that I could not pass up: zabaglione (a.k.a. zabaione). Zabaione is a simple Italian cake made with eggs, sugar, and Marsala: it is very hard to resist and this ice cream was delicious.
Zabaione is the kind of flavor that has to be handmade to be any good. And that is what made my day.