Monthly Archives: July 2011

New Wave of Italian Emigration – Gelato Pioneers

Legend has it that Florentine Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589), exported the idea of Italian sorbets to France to the court of Francis I (1494–1547) when she went there to marry the Duc d’Orleans (who later became Henri II and she, his queen) at the age of 14. She reportedly brought her staff along to cook Italian delicacies, not trusting the cuisine of France (or perhaps, her enemies in the French court). Among her chefs was Ruggeri, purported to be the first professional gelato maker. During her month-long wedding celebration, he is said to have created and served a different ice daily, with flavors including lemon, lime, orange, cherry, and wild strawberry to surprise the royal banquets guests.

Gelato University
Gelato University

Whether the story is true is highly debatable, but what is fact is that since the 16th century, Italian gelato makers have emigrated throughout the world, spreading a craving for their frozen treats. After the two world wars, the fame of Italian gelato reached its peak only to fall back as American ice cream went into industrial production and post-war generations of Italians stayed home.

Now the manufacturer of arguably the best artisanal gelato equipment in the world, Carpigiani, located near Bologna, is seeking to spread the love of Italian gelato throughout the world by encouraging Italian gelato makers to emigrate once again. Through its Gelato University, Carpigiani is offering scholarships to Italians, who take part in the Gelato Pioneers Program, a set of courses that teaches aspiring gelateria owners how to make Italian gelato and sorbetto, as well as the business skills to start and run a thriving gelateria.

The winning Gelato Pioneers with Andrea Cocchi
The winning Gelato Pioneers with Andrea Cocchi

The catch? The Italian Gelato Pioneers must have the desire and the business plan to start a gelateria in a country, not their own. They must take Italian gelato to foreign shores.

The first graduating class, made up of twelve Gelato Pioneers, was honored on July 20 at the Gelato University with diplomas, accolades, prosecco, and, of course, gelato.

Beatrice Venturi will open a gelateria in Singapore (w/ Andrea Cocchi)
Beatrice Venturi will open a gelateria in Singapore (w/ Andrea Cocchi)

At the end of the four-week course, out of thirty students, the twelve (two working as a team) most talented and motivated students were reimbursed for the course. They were given apprenticeships, as desired, in thriving gelaterias and gained at least a week or more experience in Carpigiani’s own Gelato Lab, a working gelateria where innovation reigns supreme. Through Praxi, an international consultancy and training company with over 40 years’ experience, the Pioneers received business mentoring that will continue for 12 months. Finally, they were offered steep discounts on the Carpigiani equipment needed to start their own gelaterias.

Andrea Morelli (going to USA) & Carpigiani Managing Director
Andrea Morelli (going to the USA) & Carpigiani Managing Director Cocchi

“The project involves a double challenge,” said Carpigiani Managing Director Andrea Cocchi. “First, spreading the culture of home-made gelato around the world.”  And secondly, he described the development of a “start-up model” to assist Italians to successful business careers, based on a quintessential Italian cultural food. “Carpigiani has decided to invest in people with the talent and motivation to win this challenge and is willing to place the strength of the international network that distinguishes it worldwide at their disposal.”

The Gelato Pioneers of 2011 are heading off to Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Singapore, the United States, and Poland. “These twelve Italians have the passion and the talent to take the true culture of artisanal ‘Made in Italy’ gelato to the rest of the world,” concluded Cocchi.

The Gelato Lab at Carpigiani Headquarters
The Gelato Lab at Carpigiani Headquarters

The Gelato University was founded in 2003 as a training division of the Carpigiani Group, which produces around 70% of the world’s gelato and soft serve ice cream machines. The company offers 9,000 courses around the world in 10 languages.

Cocchi said the Gelato Pioneers project had so far been aimed at Italians, but the company wants to do more to promote Italian gelato around the world. Next year, the 2012 class of Gelato Pioneers may be expanded to include more finalists and to allow participants from other countries to compete for the top awards that aim to guarantee success as a gelato entrepreneur.

Mangia! Mangia! – Gelato Crostini Anyone?

One of the highlights of this summer was an invitation to spend two days at Carpigiani Gelato University, located just outside Bologna, on the historic Via Emilia, between Lavino di Mezzo and Anzola dell’Emilia.

48 hours of just thinking about gelato and, of course, tasting flavor after flavor of sorbet, semifreddo, granita, frozen yogurt, soft-serve, as well as, traditional Italian gelato.

Gelato Maestro Luigi Perrucci
Gelato Maestro Luigi Perrucci

At the Gelato Lab, Carpigiani’s freestanding high-tech gelateria, two brand new flavors of gelato were introduced to the world on July 20 during the presentation of the 2011 Gelato Pioneers (more about this later).

The two fascinating flavors were created by Gelato Maestro Luigi Perrucci in the Gelato Lab’s research and experimentation kitchen, using the most innovative of Carpigiani’s gelato and soft-serve machines.

Mortadella Gelato Crostini
Mortadella Gelato Crostini

The crowd cheered as a tray of Mortadella Gelato “crostini” was presented. Mortadella is one of Bologna’s most famous foods, dating back five hundred years. Maestro Luigi chose to serve his mortadella gelato on a small round slice of bread and top it with a shaving of Parmesan cheese, a squiggle of balsamic vinegar and bit of shredded lettuce.

Made with a sorbet base, the pink gelato offered a true mortadella flavor without any fatty mouthfeel or aftertaste. The bread, balsamic, Parmesan and lettuce made it the perfect sandwich, albeit an icy cold one.

Balsamic Vinegar Gelato came from the soft serve machine
Balsamic Gelato from the soft serve machine

For dessert, Maestro Luigi offered a Balsamic Vinegar Soft Serve Gelato. Of the palest purple in color, made with a milk and egg base, the delightful swirl of gelato was sweet with a slight tangy aftertaste.

Balsamic vinegar is not vinegar per se. It begins with late-harvest grapes (usually white Trebbiano) grown near Modena. Traditional balsamic vinegar is thick and sweet and very very expensive.

Balsamic Vinegar Soft Serve
Balsamic Vinegar Soft Serve

Carpigiani is known for pushing the envelop of the tradition Italian gelato experience. The company seeks to bring Italian gelato to the whole world. Mortadella gelato may not find its way into any gelateria on a regular basis (except for perhaps Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco and on the Food Channel’s Iron Chef), but the balsamic vinegar soft serve is a keeper.

Italian Food Rules – No Cappuccino After 10am

“Italians, it so happens, spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about digestion. The predilection towards a before-dinner drink-known as an aperitivo – is due in large part because Italians believe a drink such as Campari and soda “opens the stomach.” If you launch into your bruschetta – followed by pasta, followed by grilled fish, followed by panna cotta – without first awakening the digestive tract with an aperitivo, you’re just asking for trouble.” (The Daily Traveler for Condé Nast)

Cappuccino Classico
Cappuccino Classico

To sip a cappuccino after lunch is a direct and major violation of an Italian Food Rule. Italians believe the fresh whole milk that makes up over half of the contents of this drink plays havoc with digestion. To order a cappuccino after 10am, unless you are breakfasting after said hour, is seen as suspect behavior worthy of at least a slight frown, advancing to a worried shake of the head, and can escalate to outright ridicule.

Francesca, my guide to all of the pitfalls that lead to violations of Italian Food Rules, once had a hilarious exchange with a waiter after two German tourists at a nearby table unwittingly ordered cappuccini after dinner. Scornfully, she wondered if they were going to order breakfast for dessert.

Origins of Cappuccino

Most believe that cappuccino was named after the light brown hoods worn by a hard-core, split-away order of Franciscan monks, founded in the early 16th century – the Capuchin monks, or Cappuccini. The word cappuccio means “hood” in Italian, and the “ino” ending is a diminutive. Thus, cappuccino means “little hood.”

Cappuccino - the Italian breakfast
Cappuccino – the Italian breakfast

Others credit Capuchin monk Marco D’Aviano with the invention of the drink, allegedly after he discovered a sack of coffee captured from the Ottomans during the battle of Vienna in 1683. (D’Aviano was beatified in 2003 for his missionary work and miraculous power of healing.)

In reality, the popular coffee, topped with foamed milk, dates back to the early 20th century, but the name wasn’t associated with the beverage until just before 1950.

Cappuccino – Breakfast of Italians

Fresh Milk & Espresso = Cappuccino
Fresh Milk & Espresso = Cappuccino

To the Italians, milk is almost a meal in itself. So having a cappuccino at the neighborhood bar in the morning on the way to work or school requires no other food to be considered a complete breakfast. (A small pastry may be included, but not always.)


Cappuccino is more milk than coffee, so it is full of calories. Perhaps the reasoning is that slender Italians (the ones that don’t order the pastry) are more likely to burn off the calories through the day. Drunk later, those pesky calories stay on the hips

Some say that cappuccino is best in the morning because the milk has lactose (a sugar) and the body absorbs the lactose and milk fat quickly, so the carbohydrate energy is available immediately before the caffeine stimulant kicks in.

Food Rule – No Cappuccino after Meals

The real reason behind the Food Rule, however, is that Italians are firmly convinced that drinking milk after any meal will mess up the ability to digest food properly. So having a cappuccino at any time after lunch, or after dinner, in Italy is unthinkable.

Tourists, therefore, shouldn’t be shocked when the waiter refuses to grant their cappuccino requests “for your own health.”

Capuccino Valentine
Cappuccino Valentine

For further reading:

Best Writing about Italian Coffee

How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy

Italian Food Rules by Ann Reavis is available now. You can buy Italian Food Rules by using these links:

Italian Food Rules: The Book

Amazon. com (U.S.) eBook for Kindle & Kindle Apps

Amazon. com (U.S.) paperback (United Kingdom) (Italy) (Germany) (France)

Barnes & Noble (U.S.) eBook for Nook