She’s a naturalist, he’s an orthodontist. Their shared passion is fine dining and baking in particular. After many master classes and lots of studying,Manuela CerulloandMatteo Gorettiopened a unique format for the small Pontassieve town in the province of FLorence: an artisan gelateria that also serves espresso and filter coffee. The true novelty is the carefully studied combination of these two products, created with help from experts in each.
The small gelateria in Pontassieve opened a little under two years ago, born from the owners’ will to start their own business. “After getting my degree in natural sciences and working in that world, I decided to make a career change and follow my dream: pursue my passion for pastry baking and gelato making”, says Manuela. “With Matteo I took many courses and classes, I worked in a neighborhood gelateria for a while and then in 2014 we decided to give our own business a go”. Flavors are devised by Manuela, who works closely with another girl: “Matteo on the other hand works as an orthodontist; we occasionally hire more people, but it’s usually just the two of us”.
“Whenever possible I try to source my ingredients locally and from small producers of the area. But this is not always so. What counts is the constant level of quality”. Piedmont hazelnuts, pistachios from the Sicilian town of Bronte, seasonal produce from trusted local farms in the Chianti hills, Domori chocolate, plus others are personally sourced by Manuela. “In addition to classic mainstream gelato flavors, I love to experiment and play around with flavors. At the moment, with the help of a nutritionist friend I am designing a line of flavors called Gusti del Benessere, that is a healthy and delicious combination of fruit and vegetables which are mostly ideal on hot days, when all we want is something light”. Hence the birth of raspberry-beet flavor, or mango, peach and carrot; or kiwi and spinach “or the basil sorbet, it was very popular this summer”. Business appears to be going well, “despite us being outside of Florence, yet this area has many tourists, mainly due to the amount of agriturismo farms in the surrounding hills, which attract many foreign travelers on vacation”. As far as future projects, “we definitely want to open a small shop in Florence proper. Our clientele is growing and now that the news regarding our gelato has spread, we’re getting lots of visitors from Florence too”.
Coffee and gelato
But how does specialty coffee pair with quality artisan gelato? “Coffee flavor is historically popular, our focus is on the beverage and its extraction, which method to pick, prime ingredients, and degree of grind”. Interest devoted to coffee came thanks to the friendship with Simone Guidi, Scae trainer Scae and expert filter brewer “who helped us discover all the various declinations of this product, from espresso to filter”. Manuela and Matteo were so smitten with this novelty that they decided to open their place with an espresso machine and 3 other extraction method machinery: v60, aeropress and chemex. The roaster of choice is Bagno a Ripoli’s Piansaand the beverages are poured by Manuela herself. “In addition to Simone’s precious advice, I also attended course at Umami Coffee Campus”, a barista, roaster and coffee aficionado teaching center in the mayorship of Scandicci. “The Pontassieve public is still a little sceptical about filter coffee”, but La Via del Gelato can fortunately rely on the large flow of tourists “who are usually more accustomed to this kind of beverage”.
Flavors and experiments
It is no surprise then that La Via del Gelato has been selected by coffee experts for this past July’s event Io bevo caffè di qualità, a festival whose intent is spreading knowledge on specialty coffee culture. “For the festival we offered coffee in all its various versions, interacting with all the baristas present at the event. What we did was create flavors with which coffee could shine and where subtle nuances could perceived in the product”. Like white coffee, for example, “which looks like a regular milk gelato, but with a more intense and aromatic flavor. We also created a coffee flavor with a cacao bean crumble, and for which we chose Orang Utan Coffee Project coffee”. This is a project aimed at helping coffee growers be more environment friendly. Lastly, “we devised a sort of fiordilatte made with iced coffee extracted in 3 different grinds; the coarseness of the coffee grounds influences the taste and texture of the beverage, our wish was creating a gelato with an unusual body”.
Manuela will continue to experiment to create new gelato flavors, some which will be espresso based, others will employ filter coffee. The main difference? “Will be in the texture and obviously in the aromatic profile. From stovetop moka to filter to espresso, the changes in identity of coffee are drastic, acquiring and shedding bitterness, being more or less citrusy, more or less sweet and so forth. Fortunately there are no difficulties in the churning phase in the gelato making process, including with thinner coffees, like coffee extracted with v60” she comments. And adds: “my journey in the world of coffee has just begun and I still have lots to learn. In time I hope to handle the product increasingly better and create tasty and original recipes”.
La via del Gelato | Pontassieve (FI) | via Aretina, 152 | tel. 055 832 8099 | www.facebook.com/viadelgelato
by Michela Becchi
translated by Eleonora Baldwin