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Banana-Beet?

Gelato-maker churns out new flavors


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Move over wine, you're not the only one with complex lay- ers of flavors that linger on the tongue before producing a late spiciness at the back of the throat. That creamy cold stuff, gelato – when in the hands of a maestro like Paciugo Gelato's Cristina Ginatta – often sings with a combination of flavors that at first blush may seem like an odd pairing.

For instance, Paciugo offers gelato in such off-beat flavor combinations as: Banana-Beet, Mango-Cucumber and Olive Oil Black Pepper.  While olive oil and black pepper sound very un-dessert-like, Ginatta says the olive oil gives the gelato a smooth consistency with fruity notes, while the black pepper supplies a late spiciness in the back of the throat. Cucumber, on the other hand, instills a refreshing after taste.

Cristina Ginatta

If you don’t think you’re getting authentic Italian gelato at Paciugo, just talk to co-founder Cristina Ginatta. If the taste doesn’t convince you, her wonderful Italian accent will.

Ginatta went to gelato-making school to learn the science behind the art of making gelato that use whole milk instead of cream for a more intense flavor profile. Gelato-making was already a family tradition: Her grandparents served the Italian mainstay in their neighborhood store back in Italy, and Ginatta started her gelato career with her grandfather's six recipes.

One of her most popular flavors tastes better than it sounds – Mediterranean Sea Salt Caramel, but as Franchise Times staff can attest to, it is strangely delicious – salty and sweet. Ginatta got the idea from old fashioned salt-water taffy.

When Ginatta and her husband Ugo came to the United States from Italy to start a gelato chain, she already had parlayed her grandfather's recipes into 80. The couple opened the first store in Dallas during the fall and one of the first recipes customers requested was pumpkin pie. "We didn't know what pumpkin pie was," she says, laughing.

As their franchise grows into new territories, franchisees ask for indigenous flavors. For instance, Colorado stores requested recipes with fresh berries; another favorite is Chocolate with Cinnamon and Cayenne Pepper.  The store in Boca Raton, Florida, asks for more traditional flavors for its predominately senior population, such as Butter Pecan and Butterscotch.

A Texas signature flavor is Ruby Grapefruit with Sage.

One request took more than two years to develop. The task was easy once she discovered a green tea powder that allowed her to balance the liquids and solids. The end result will be rolled out this summer: Pineapple Green Tea and Chocolate Green Tea.

Has there ever been a combination that didn't work?

 "Blue cheese with caramelized pecans," she replies. At first the taste was wonderful – mild and creamy, sweetened by the sugary nuts. But even frozen blue cheese continues to age and in two hours, "Yuk, it's salad dressing," Ginatta says.

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