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The essence of gelato is found at Bottega Italiana

David Boylan

A sampling of the fabulous gelato at Bottega Italiana
A sampling of the fabulous gelato at Bottega Italiana.
Photo Sara Wacker

I’ve always been a big fan of gelato yet it’s been somewhat of a mystery to me. I recently discovered a company that makes gelato here in San Diego and is sold at several locations in North County. David Arato, a native of Italy and former professional cyclist is part of the team here in San Diego and I had this conversation with him recently to learn more about gelato.

LTP
Let’s start with what exactly is gelato and how is it different from ice cream?

BI
Gelato is the Italian way of making ice-cream. The main difference is that it contains approximately 60% less fat and calories than conventional American ice cream. Not all of our flavors contain dairy, but those that do are made with 2% milk. They are rich in flavor, not in fat! In addition, the end result for those dairy free selections is an even lower calorie count product. Unlike many ice creams and other frozen desserts there is a lot less air whipped into our product creating a sinfully satisfying mouthful that really packs a punch of flavor. A little gelato goes a long way. We also make a point to use natural ingredients, all of this resulting in a healthier treat for customers and their families.

LTP
I’ve heard that gelato is taken very seriously in Italy. Having grown up there, what are your memories of it and tell me about it’s standing in the rich Italian culinary history.

BI
Gelato is engraved into Italian food and social culture, and is immensely popular in Italy but also the rest of Europe. It is a high quality dessert, but also a pastime, a meeting place, a night out spot when you don't feel like the bar seen. In the summers in Italy, you will find Gelato stores packed until 1am with families and friends. There is one on every block, and almost all of them are family owned operations, so all they compete with is quality!

LTP
You have an interesting background as a professional cyclist. I’ve always been jealous of the mass quantities of calories cyclists can consume and stay thin. Tell me about that part of your life and what led you to making gelato.

BI
Yeah, cycling is a demanding sport. You can eat all you want but if you train on the professional level, it will all burn off. But we regularly had days of 8 hours on the bike, and trained 7 days a week for 11 months a year, so not much calorie intake control was necessary. During my travels, I made friends and they visited me in Italy several times. My friends from the US had to eat gelato 3 times a day while in Italy, and could not stop talking about how much better this is then there usual choices for frozen desserts in America. I started forming the idea then and learned everything about the product and moved to Seattle at the end of 2002. After looking and planning for 6 months, I opened the first Bottega Italiana in Seattle's famous Pike Place Market.

LTP
Bottega Italiana has developed quite a following. Tell me about your San Diego distribution and what makes your gelato different?

BI
We are in all the San Diego area Whole Foods Market locations, Hilton resorts, Catamaran resort, Chuao chocolatier stores, and many Italian restaurants. Our gelato difference is all in the quality. We make every flavor fresh to order and in small batches, with fresh ingredients. It is very easy to cut corners in food production, and gelato is no different. But we refuse to, and still squeeze those lemons, limes, and oranges one by one into our Gelato. We are constantly working on developing new flavors and searching for even better ingredients and are working on organic, vegan and gluten free gelato lines that will be available soon.

LTP
Are there traditional flavors with gelato and do you vary much from those? What flavors are you currently making?

BI
We do have some traditional flavors, like Stracciatella (chocolate chip) and Panna Cotta... Chocolate and Vanilla is a must, so is Pistachio and Hazelnut, all the fresh fruits of each season. But we also added our own special twist to some of those, and invented many flavors of our own along the way. Things like Mascarpone Lemon Zest, Opera (Pine nuts, Almonds, Pistachios, Hazelnuts), Speciale (creme brulee with a hint of salt, and chocolate chips), Mojito, Mediterraneo (Almond cream with orange zest, fig and mandarin swirls and Pistachio topping), and Watermelon are all big favorites in our stores. My recipe book has over 100 flavors in it, and constantly growing.

Find out more about Bottega Italiana at www.bottegaitaliana.com

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