World’s first ice cream museum to melt hearts

Updated 03 October 2012

World’s first ice cream museum to melt hearts

Who knows what Cosimo Ruggieri would have thought about ending up in a gelato museum? Alchemist at the court of the Medici, Ruggieri, the story goes, created the ice-cream that Catherine De Medici took to Paris in the 1530s to wow the French.
And that’s why he ended up in the world’s first ever museum of gelato culture and technology which has just opened its doors to local dignitaries and businessmen in the small northern town of Anzola dell’Emilia, near Bologna. “Gelato was a symbol of power, used at courts to enhance the prestige of noble families. Ice and salt were key ingredients and were expensive and so only aristocrats could afford it,” ice-cream expert Luciana Polliotti said.
Polliotti is historical curator at the Carpigiani Gelato Museum, a shiny more than 1,000 square meter space built at a cost of 1.5 million euros to showcase the history of a product that has become a Made in Italy success story the world over.
The museum, built by gelato machine maker Carpigiani Group, tracks the history of gelato from the early snow-wells of antiquity, to the ice and salt sherbets developed by the Chinese through to the new technologies of the 1900s.
Exhibits include the world’s first-written recipe for the “shrb,” Arabic for sugar syrup, the ‘De Sorbetti’ treatise on the curative powers of gelato, written by Neapolitan physician Filippo Baldini, and 20 vintage gelato-making machines including the first automatic “Cattabriga” machine introduced in 1931.
But if the gelato has its distant origins in Mesopotamia it was Italy that developed the modern creamier version we serve today on our tables, some time in the 1500s in Florence.
And it was another Italian, Francesco Procopio Cuto, who, the museum says, sold the first sorbets to the public in 1686 when he opened “Le Procope” in Paris — still there today. Since then gelato eating has become much more democratic. Food-producing association Coldiretti estimates Italians will spend 2.5 billion euros on gelati this year with more than 600 flavours to choose from. And visitors to Anzola can taste some of those at the gelato shop outside the museum which serves treats like fig gelato with balsamic drizzle, strawberry and raspberry sorbets from an early 1800 recipe and coffee sorbet first drafted in 1854.
It was Carpigiani that took the gelato business global. Founded in 1945, the company, today part of catering equipment group Ali, has grown to become the world’s No. 1 gelato machine maker with branches in 12 countries, sales of 146 million euros and a payroll of over 400.
Every day more than 150 million gelati from its machines are eaten worldwide. Like other Made in Italy businesses, the gelato trade has bucked the recessionary trend by focusing on quality and distinguishing itself from the fatter, more industrialized ice-cream.
“In Bologna one of the few things that has grown in recent years is gelato,” said Gabriele Cavina, a Catholic church monsignor speaking at Thursday’s museum inauguration.
Italians are deadly serious about their gelato. Walk around any Italian town late afternoon or evening and you’ll find plenty of people strolling round with gelatos of every shade and color.
But with one gelato parlour for every 3,000 inhabitants, Italy is now a mature market and 80 percent of Carpigiani’s business is now generated abroad with emerging markets in the Middle East and Asia a natural choice.
Especially China.
“Gelato is not really in their culture but for the Chinese it’s more a choice of tasting Made in Italy than food as such. I see strong growth there,” Carpigiani General Manager Andrea Cocchi told Reuters.
To help overseas expansion, Carpigiani also set up a Gelato University in 2003. Sat next to the museum, it is bustling with foreign students who come to the laboratories to learn the ins and outs of gelato making before going back home to set up their own businesses — possibly with a Carpigiani machine.
“I want to open up my own gelato shop in Manila,” said 31-year-old Philippine Lily Agito who is doing a one-month internship at the Univesity. “It’s been great. They don’t spoonfeed you everything so you have to think for yourself.”
Then there’s the Gelato Pioneers. Every year Carpigiani selects a group of highly motivated Italians ready to leave everything to open gelato shops abroad.
Besides funding scholarships for the program, the company also covers half the price of buying a new Carpigiani machine and will buy it back inside a year if the business folds.
Andrea Morelli, a 38-year old former bank manager from Bologna, has no regrets.
“In 2011 I gave up everything and through the program spent time abroad including Malaysia. I was aiming to open in the US but it could be somewhere else,” he said.
($ 1 = 0.7773 euros)

Inside Fishbone, the latest restaurant from Chef Susy Massetti

Fishbone is by Chef Susy Massetti. (Supplied)
Updated 21 February 2020

Inside Fishbone, the latest restaurant from Chef Susy Massetti

MANAMA: Chef Susy Massetti is a long-established star of the region’s culinary scene — from five-star hotel kitchens in the UAE and Bahrain to her unique concept at Bahrain’s multi-award-winning Masso by Chef Susy Massetti.

Having left Masso just over two years ago, many Gulf foodies were left wondering where she had gone. The answer is Fishbone, a gorgeous spot tucked away in the Novotel Al-Dana Resort, close to town but with a seaside feel, where she has had a hand in everything from the interior setup — even down to the fabric design — to, of course, the kitchen and menu (which, by the way, is not all seafood).

The restaurant has a gorgeous, and uber-romantic, outdoor terrace with liberal sprinkling of fairy lights. (Supplied)

I was lucky enough to try out a selection of chef’s recommendations on a cool evening recently — and no, this is not the customary British obsession with the weather, but an excuse to mention the gorgeous, and uber-romantic, outdoor terrace with its liberal sprinkling of fairy lights. I chose to sit inside because of the chill, but it will surely be warmer soon.

I was by the ceviche, knowing it to be one of Chef Susy’s signature dishes. But, instead, I went with the recommendation of Fishbone’s Poke Bowl — sushi-grade tuna with avocado, red onions, sesame seeds, coriander and black rice, with Asian dressing.

Chef Susy Massetti is a long-established star of the region’s culinary scene. (Supplied)

Firstly, it looks beautiful, with the black rice adding a visual twist. And that same black rice also contributes to the texture mix, slightly rougher and nuttier than its white counterpart. The abundant raw tuna is a fish lover’s dream, fresh and succulent. The flavor additions are a perfect mix, giving just the right piquancy without overpowering the tuna. If you’re not a fan of coriander, don’t feel shy about asking for it to be omitted, the kitchen is very happy to oblige — though you’ll be missing out slightly.

For my main course, I was delighted to discover a whole section of the menu devoted to truffles. In an ‘Every day’s a school day’ moment, Chef Susy informed me that, as well as working with top-quality imports, she’s also a big fan of local truffles. I never even knew such a thing existed. Apparently, in season, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are abundant with both white and black truffles and they’re particularly plentiful after rainfall.

Fishbone is a gorgeous spot tucked away in the Novotel Al-Dana Resort in Bahrain. (Supplied) 

I chose white truffle risotto. In my view, it’s the ultimate comfort food, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Arborio rice was perfectly cooked — tender and creamy without a hint of stickiness. The generous portion of wafer-thin truffle slices, pungent, and with that unmistakable delicate taste, was the cherry on the cake, so to speak.

Purely in the interests of research, you understand, I went for a second main of Branzino Al Limone — seabass fillet with a classic lemon-and-caper sauce. Delicious! The flesh was that perfect consistency of fall-off-the-fork tender but still firm enough to retain its robust meaty texture and the accompanying sauce demonstrates the skill of the kitchen — the simplest dishes are often the hardest to get right.

In season, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are abundant with both white and black truffles and they’re particularly plentiful after rainfall. (Supplied)

At this point, I have to confess that I should have taken the advice on the menu: “Life is short, leave space for the cake.” With choices including chocolate toffee pudding with mascarpone cream, strawberries with jaggery and balsamic syrup, and baked yoghurt with fresh berries, I would have been very much in my element. Sadly, I simply could not fit any more in — the price for having two main courses. However, I shall treat my omission as an excuse to return, not that one is needed.

And if you’re in Saudi Arabia, you don’t need to wait for your next trip across the causeway to sample Chef Susy’s culinary creations, as you’ll also find her at the recently launched Eat’sy on the corniche in Alkhobar. I feel a road trip coming on.