We strive to create the most authentic food and drink experience at Philly Farm & Food Fest, with a dedication to the makers who stand out in a crowd and scream “I’m the real deal!” We’re certain we accomplished that in welcoming Vincenzo Tettamanti, Gelato Maestro and Owner at Gemelli Artisanal Gelato & Dessert Café, as a 2017 exhibitor.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you landed in the gelato/dessert business?
My early life was steeped in local tradition and homemade food. I was born and raised in Ferrara, the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy known for its culinary delights such as ragú bolognese, prosciutto, balsamic, Parmigiano Reggiano, and tortellini. Growing up, I learned to value the rich culinary traditions of my region, as well as cooking with ingredients native to my local land. In 2008, inspired by love, I moved to the United States after meeting my wife, Julianne, while she was studying abroad in Milan, Italy. We ultimately settled in the town of West Chester, Pennsylvania. I found that my new home had the historic appeal of long-preserved buildings characteristic of my Italian heritage. Likewise, I found there was an abundant assortment of local ingredients available for me to honor the farm to table tradition I grew up with.
Since I had a Masters in Economics, it seemed like the natural thing to do was to work in corporate America, but in my free time, inspired by my love of food, I sought out artisanal products and practiced in my kitchen. One thing I noticed was the majority of gelato (and ice cream) is made with pre-made flavoring pastes, powders and colorants and that is not the way artisanal gelato was meant to be. I decided to venture into the world of entrepreneurship by crafting true, artisanal gelato and my first step was going back to Italy to train with the best gelato Maestri.
In 2014, I opened Gemelli Artisanal Gelato & Dessert Café with the vision of shaping the future of artisanal Italian gelato and desserts by educating my community on the lost tradition of a truly artisanal product honoring the processes and Italian heritage necessary to handcraft treats that we can all feel good about. All Gemelli treats are made completely from scratch daily with farm-fresh, seasonal ingredients and always crafted without colorants, pre-made flavoring pastes, syrups or powder mixes.
We would love for this to come from a pro, once and for all: what’s the difference between gelato and ice cream?
As a professional I must first answer this question by explaining that not all gelato is created equal and varies greatly from region to region (North & South of Italy for example) or from shop to shop. Unfortunately there is no regulation that defines what classifies “gelato”, or “true artisanal gelato”, but only guidelines given by Italian Maestri and even those many do not follow or care for. I calculate fat, sugar & solid content in every flavor, I double-check how much air my gelato incorporates and I control every single step of the production process including every single ingredient I use, avoiding any pre-made mixes or flavorings: this is how true artisan gelato should be made.
I can only speak for my gelato and for those Maestri that do follow the guidelines and care about a true authentic product:
- Gemelli gelato is made fresh daily, truly and completely from scratch with local, organic & farm fresh ingredients. Ice cream is often made with premade ingredients and stored frozen for months/years before it is consumed.
- Gemelli gelato is denser than ice cream, meaning there is less air in the product. The air is naturally incorporated during the freezing process thanks to the ingredients in the recipe, so you eat way more product and less air. If your frozen treat is too light and airy, then it is not an artisanal product.
- Gemelli gelato is served at a warmer serving temperature than ice cream to allow for flavors to be enjoyed as soon as it hits your tongue. My gelato is a lot more delicate than ice cream and the warmer serving temperature assures a fresher product, as my gelato will simply deteriorate after 2 days in the display case.
- Every single Gemelli flavor has a specific recipe that I personally formulate. My gelato has between 6-8% fat versus ice cream that has 15-20% or more.
- I also offer true vegan gelato (made with almond milk) and vegan, fat free Sorbetti (made with over 50% fresh fruit, water and sugar) that are just as creamy and dense as regular gelato. Ice cream is trying to catch up, but just cannot compete at this level of quality & taste in these niches.
Overall, gelato is a different product made with different processes and ingredients.
Where are some places you source local ingredients from and how does the flavor and experience of a locally sourced gelato differ from non-local and mass-produced?
I am fortunate to live and work in a small community that offers a wealth of local ingredients. I believe it is important to support other local businesses so the community can grow and thrive. I work with Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop to source all my local, organic dairies, yogurt, jams, honey and produce. Both my loose-leaf teas and iced teas are from local companies (PureBlend and Steaz), and the bottled water I carry is from the Poconos. I am also very lucky to have a great Farmers Market right in the heart of West Chester every Saturday, so that I can collaborate with numerous local farms and artisans.
Another thing I love to do is work with other food artisan businesses in town by using their products in my gelato or by partnering with businesses for pop-ups and cross-marketing initiatives.
To me working with local, in-season products assures the best natural flavor, color and taste without the need of colorants or flavor enhancers. This also allows a skilled artisan, to set their products apart and create unique flavor combinations, because mass-produced gelato and ice cream all taste the same. It is hard to do this in a world where strawberry flavor everything is expected to be served in the dead of winter, but I do believe consumers are finally becoming aware and more educated, also thanks to initiatives like the Philly Farm & Food Fest.
What are your 5 most popular flavors?
We have over 80 flavors, which we rotate following the seasons or to showcase local specialties, but there are a few flavors I keep year round:
- Fresh Mascarpone & Nutella
- Sea Salt Caramel: handcrafted caramel made in-house & pink Himalayan sea salt
- Sicilian Cannoli: my take on the famous dessert crafted with local, organic ricotta, fresh Madagascar vanilla & Valrhona chocolate chunks
- Goat Cheese & Raspberry Preserve with locally sourced & organic raspberry jam sweetened with agave
- Stracciatella: the original, Italian chocolate chip.
Would you argue that the gelato you’re making and serving is as close to the Italian product/offerings as anyone can get (unless they go to Italy)?
My gelato is made with the same traditional processes, and even better ingredients than most “Gelaterie”, because sadly, even in Italy most gelato is made with pre-made flavoring pastes and powder mixes. Gelato has always been part of my life, I trained in Italy with the best Italian gelato Maestri and I care and respect the history of gelato and my country too much to offer an average product. I am obsessed with quality; this is my form of art.
What else does Gemelli offer, in addition to gelato?
I opened Gemelli to bring a true Italian Dessert Café experience to West Chester, with a welcoming, warm and relaxing atmosphere. I offer different type of Italian desserts (tiramisu, cannoli, cakes, tarts, pastries & cookies), artisanal gelato, gelato cakes & pops, locally roasted coffee and handcrafted espresso drinks, teas and hot chocolates. All of my desserts are handcrafted in-house, daily with the same local, farm fresh and artisanal philosophy, honoring and respecting the traditional processes.
Catch Vincenzo Tettamanti, Gelato Maestro and Owner at Gemelli Artisanal Gelato & Dessert Café, at Philly Farm & Food Fest on Saturday, April 8, 2017. Tickets available now!