Gelato Messina - It doesn't get better than this.

Recently, I was one of eight lucky recipients of a golden ticket for the Gelato Messina factory in Rozelle.  I felt like Charlie Bucket standing outside the walls of the Willy Wonka factory. Tucked away behind an unassuming facade, the factory turns out mountains of delicious gelato to feed our insatiable appetite for all things Messina.

Founded in 2000 by Nick Palumbo, Messina is a Darlinghurst institution which has been slowly taking over Sydney with shops at Star Casino, Surry Hills and as of last week Bondi Beach. The queues outside the stores in Darlinghurst and Surry Hills have to be seen to be believed. Look out Melbourne, there is a Gelato Messina scheduled to open very soon in Fitzroy and plans are afoot for stores in China too.

Nick and his fabulous team demonstrated how they make their gelato starting with a lemon sorbet, followed by a traditional vanilla ice cream and finally, the extremely delicious Bombe Alaska.  Whilst they were hard at work talking and demonstrating, we got to eat our way through a special gelato meal.

The first course was a simple lemon sorbet served with sake.  The intense lemony flavour is created by using both the juice and the pulp of the lemon and not just any lemon but Meyer lemons. We discovered that sorbet is a simple combination of water, sugar and fruit - the secret to success lies in the use of the right type of sugars and in the right combinations.

Following this was a bruschetta served with a pretty pale pink tomato sorbet. The flavours were refreshing and surprising.

Our next course was a Foiddle Pop (I am not totally sure of the spelling but it is a Duck Foie Gras Paddle Pop).  The Foiddle Pop is the prettiest shade of pink, with cherry gelato and popping candy on the outside. We were all giggling as the candy popped away in our mouths.  Not too sweet nor too savoury it was absolutely delicious.

Our main course was an 18 hour sous vide pork belly with crackling, apple and pepper gelato and pumpkin puree.  The Gelato Messina boys had taken the traditional apple and pork combination and put a whole new crazy twist on it and it was YUM!!!

For dessert we had mini pavlovas served in little jars with lids on.  The base was a passionfruit jelly with raspberries and mini meringues and a few micro mint leaves.  The texture and flavour was absolutely sublime.

As we worked our way through each course, the boys chatted about their inspiration and their process.  They make everything, with the exception of the savoiardi biscuits for the tiramisu, on the premises. Every paste, jam, brioche or cake is made in house and they spend hours working to create the perfect ingredient for the gelato making process.  The ingredients used in gelato have to not only taste good but also have to work at many different temperatures.  The process is quite complex and it would seem that the secret to success is to make sure that the cooling process happens quite quickly, in under one and a half hours, otherwise you run the risk of bacteria forming in your gelato.

Only the best ingredients are used in the gelati. We tried the Callebaut chocolate and the hazelnuts which are sourced in Piemonte in Italy.  The pistachios come from the town of Bronte, which is in the foothills of Mount Etna in Sicily, where the soil creates the right environment for growing the perfect pistachio.  The pistachios are hand picked and shelled, hence the fantastic green of the pistachio gelato.

Nick and Donato, his business partner have been working together for the past three years.  They have a great sense of humour and look to films and television to provide inspiration for their ever expanding range of flavours.  They are inspired by shows like the Mighty Boosh and Game of Thrones.  Hence the Khaleesi or the fabulous Robert Brownie Jr - milk chocolate gelato, chocolate brownies and chocolate fudge sauce..  And as they describe it "Go on.. relapse today, rehab tomorrow".

Our visit was to give us some insight into the boys and their inspiration before their book is launched later this year.  The Gelato Messina book will include 50 recipes and has been painstakingly written for both the professional and domestic chef. Luckily, for those of us without blast freezers, we will still be able to try making these gelati at home.  The dark arts of which sugars to use and the process of chilling the gelato are all explained.  It strikes me that it is extremely generous, this sharing of years and years of professional knowledge. Nick said that he is happy to do this as he is always seeking to improve and advance the art of gelato making and for this he should be commended.

$39.95 due November
Personally, I plan to use the book as an armchair guide to decide which flavour I will have on my next visit to the Darlinghurst store.  It is a well worn path from my house to Gelato Messina and from our place all roads lead to Gelato Messina and sometimes we visit two or three times a week.  I feel happy and safe in the knowledge that the ingredients they use are so fresh and so much care is taken in the making of the gelati.  

My personal favourite is the Hello Sailor, the prettiest pale pink you could ever imagine, it is a sorbet made of ruby red grapefruit juice and Aperol and the sailor should be pronounced with a sibilant ā€˜sā€. Having said that, I recently made a visit to the Darlinghurst Laboratorio and in the interest of "research" for this blog entry we tried three of the new monoporzione. The Pop Porn, Strawberry Fields and what could possibly be my new favourite, the Golden Bluff.

I am sure Marie Antoinette would have said "Let them eat ice cream and make sure it is Gelato Messina".