Italian frozen treat offers a tasty way to chill out during hot Tucson summers
We’ve all had our share of ice cream, be it from Cold Stone Creamery or Dairy Queen, but another frozen treat has hit Tucson streets – gelato.
Hailing from Italy, gelato is very similar to ice cream. It’s made with milk instead of cream in a machine that allows little air to be mixed into the mixture, creating a dense and flavorful texture.
“It’s a gourmet ice cream with more flavor,” says Vito Croce, owner of Viro’s Real Italian Bakery, 8301 E. 22nd St. Croce, from the Italian island of Sicily, has been making gelato for nine years and uses imported products from his hometown to produce the gelato.
“Because gelato is lower in fat, you can really taste the product,” he says.
Flavor is the first thing customers comment on after trying gelato at Tucson’s two Melt Gelato and Crepe Cafes, says owner Colleen Boulos.
Recently at the Melt at Tucson Mall (Park Place’s opened this weekend), she talked about the interest as humongous mounds of gelato chilled in a glass case. Customers gathered around, sampling many flavors.
“Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the culture, but people have been very attracted to gelato,” Boulos says. “Customers are surprised by the intensity of the taste they have with gelato. It doesn’t freeze the taste buds.”
Gelato comes in many different, even unusual, flavors. At most gelato shops – gelaterias – in town you can find the basic flavors of chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, hazelnut and stracciatella (chocolate chip).
Though other places, such as Brooklyn Pizza and Viro’s, have long made gelato, when Frost: A Gelato Shoppe opened in Casas Adobes Plaza two years ago, it made the Italian treat a Tucson trend.
Frost “gelato master” Nazario Melchionda also experiments with such flavors as spicy chocolate, kiwi and a margarita sorbetto (a gelato variation with no dairy products).
“People come in and request their own (flavor) idea,” says Stephen Ochoa, who with Jeffrey Kaiserman co-owns Frost. “It’s something different that we’ve been able to create.”
Even such places as Penguin’s Frozen Yogurt now carry gelato, although yogurt is still Penguin’s staple.
“We wanted to keep up with the times, keep things fresh,” says owner Debbie Fitzpatrick.
Brothers Seth and Trevor Zamar decided to open Fratelli Gelato Lounge to represent their Italian heritage. Because Tucson is familiar with gelato, they believe their gelateria will do well when it opens at 2585 N. Swan Road, serving authentic and homemade gelato, in March.
“We want to create an environment that invites you to come in, relax and take a break from the hustle and bustles of life while offering a traditionally great tasting gelato,” Seth Zamar says.
GELATO VS. ICE CREAM
Although gelato and ice cream are cold, refreshing treats, they share different looks and ingredients.
• 3 percent to 10 percent butterfat
• very little air added during mixing process
• uses milk
• stored “semi-frozen,” similar to soft-serve ice cream
• at least 10 percent butterfat
• 10 percent to 25 percent of volume is air from mixing process
• uses cream
• stored frozen, some sources say ideally to at least 10 degrees Fahrenheit
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GET YOUR SCOOPS
BROOKLYN PIZZA CO. 534 N. Fourth Ave., 622-2902
What it has: At Tony Vaccaro’s place, they make several homemade gelati or pocolattes, which has less milk, served daily by the scoop, pint or 3-gallon tub.
ENOTECA PIZZERIA AND WINE BAR 58 W. Congress St., 623-0744
What it has: Fiore Iannacone’s downtown hot spot makes a gelato that tastes like you are eating a real mango.
FROST: A GELATO SHOPPE 7131 N. Oracle Road, Suite 101, 797-0188
What it has: The king of gelato in Tucson since opening two years ago in Casas Adobe Plaza. Italian “gelato master” Nazario Melchionda makes all the gelati there with ingredients directly from Italy.
MELT GELATO AND CREPE CAFE • Tucson Mall’s Food Court 4500 N. Oracle Road, 293-2744 • Park Place mall’s Food Court 5870 E. Broadway, 745-5968
What its shops have: Though not made on the premises, this gelato is guaranteed to make your shopping experience more enjoyable.
PENGUIN’S FROZEN YOGURT • 3175 N. Campbell Ave., 795-0757 • 825 E. University Blvd., 903-2340
What its shops have: This locally owned business carries gelato from Kokopelli’s in Green Valley.
VIRO’S REAL ITALIAN BAKERY 8301 E. 22nd St., 885-4045
What it has: Mmm . . . gelato and baked goods under one roof. Owner Viro Croce uses ingredients imported from his homeland and serves more than a dozen gelato flavors daily.
Out of town
KOKOPELLI’S GELATO FACTORY & COFFEE CAFE 514 E. Whitehouse Canyon Road (Green Valley), 648-7344
What it has: Features 18 flavors of homemade gelatI, including hazelnut, pistachio and amaretto. It also serves espresso and coffee beverages, granitas (also called Italian ices), and baked goods.
ALSO SERVED AT
Frost and Viro’s both supply their gelati to other Tucson establishments.
Frost: A Gelato Shoppe’s gelato is served at: • all El Charro Cafes 311 N. Court Ave., 622-1922; 4699 E. Speedway Blvd., 325-1922; 6310 E. Broadway, 745-1922; 100 W. Orange Grove Road, 615-1922 • Vero Amore 3305 N. Swan Road, Suite 105, 325-4122 • McClintock’s (at Saguaro Ranch) 3800 W. Moore Road, 498-2300
Viro’s Real Italian Bakery’s gelato is served at: • all Gavi restaurants Gavi Italian Restaurant, 7865 E. Broadway, 290-8380 Gavi Italian Restaurant, 7401 N. La Cholla Blvd., 219-9200 La Taverna di Gavi, 6960 E. Sunrise Drive, 615-1900 Piazza Gavi La Locanda Degli Amici, 5415 N. Kolb Road, 577-1099
GELATO SHOPS IN THE WORKS
Even more gelaterias will be opening here in the next year. Here are the ones we know about and tentative opening times, if known. (Some do not yet have phone numbers.)
FIRE 12130 N. Dove Mountain Blvd., Suite 104, 616-6023
Opening: August or September
FRATELLI GELATO LOUNGE 2585 N. Swan Road, Suite 141
FROST: A GELATO SHOPPE East Side, 7301 E. Tanque Verde Road
GELATO! DESSERT CAFE 2112 W. Grant Road
Opening: To be announced