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Gelato Roma – Nelson Mail 01.03.16

Today may be the official beginning of autumn but there is still plenty of summer heat to come in this region, and that means there is still plenty of time for you to enjoy ice-cold treats in the sun.

Of course you can pop down to the local dairy and pick up an ice cream, ice block or other frozen treat but if you make a little effort you will find Nelson made Italian-style gelato and sorbet that will spoil your taste buds for anything else.

Gelato Roma was established in Nelson by Yuri Aristarco with a couple of business partners after he arrived here in 2011 from Genova, a seaside coastal city in Italy near the northern France border and not too far from Milan, the most well-known city of northern Italy where he ran a restaurant in Genova that had a wine bar and gelato shop on ground floor with a 120 seat restaurant on first floor.

His love of food is part of culture and is really important to him, he says food is an important part of the day and can make the day good or bad.

Gelato is part of the Italian food culture and a single town in Italy might have 200 gelato producers but people have their favourite producer, just like we have a favourite coffee or restaurant, and will travel to the other side of town to get the gelato they favour.

He came to Nelson with his wife Daniela and little daughter; they were looking for an English speaking country where they could bring up their kids and while they could have moved to England or somewhere similar they wanted to get away from the general tension in Europe where it is crowded and there are problems everywhere.

“We picked New Zealand after we had been to many beautiful places but they weren’t where we wanted to make our new home. Every place has pluses and minus but thinking about family and small kids New Zealand is the best place. If you have small kids it is the best place in the world to be and what we have been able to give them here is great.”

Why did he choose to make gelato? Aristarco said he quite simply wants to add value to Nelson’s really good products, it is a good place to start a business and you can grow from here. There are lots of really good things here and he wanted to make something that reflected his culture.

The difference between gelato and sorbet is that gelato has a milk base and sorbet is water based and to make great gelato the quality of milk is extremely important, he uses Oaklands milk that is very lightly processed, as natural as possible, only pasteurised once, not homogenised, not turned to powder and back to milk, the milk and cream aren’t separated, what they get is exactly as it came from the cow and just lightly boiled.

They also use real fruit in the gelato and sorbet, not flavourings. Aristarco gave me a couple of samples including his boysenberry gelato, the recipe is made up of 50% boysenberries making it a real frozen fruit treat. Other than the lemon sorbet all of the Gelato Roma products have between 40% and 50% fruit content, all sourced locally where possible, he does have to buy his hazelnuts from Canterbury because can’t find a supplier large enough locally.

He says “If you have a great product that could be used to produce my gelato come to me and we can talk.” And that also reflects his attitude to doing business, he is keen to work with other quality producers to send Nelson made products out of the region.

“There are lots of really interesting people doing some great things here and it would be great if we could get them all together to use their energy in a positive way. It is difficult to sell your product outside the region by yourself but maybe working together we can all grow in other regions”.

Aristarco opened an outlet in Picton last month but rather than opening a new store of his own he selects an existing café that is situated well and supplies them with the display freezer and product; he also has one located at Lambretta’s in Hardy Street, Buonissimo Café and Gelato in the Richmond Mall and at the Wangapeka Cheese shop at the Grape Escape.

While he is currently producing around 500 kg of gelato and sorbet each week he has the facilities and equipment to grow that to around 7,000kg a week, he just needs some help from investors who are as passionate as he is, trained staff and other support like sorting out how to grow in other regions and finding the right transport solutions.

Aristarco says he believes that people from overseas come here and often aren’t really professionally trained, they try and reinvent themselves but what we really need is people who have expertise to come here, and they are. He says any society needs to evolve and because we are so far away from other global markets and cultures lots of new people with experience will make the evolution faster and we can sell more great Nelson products to the rest of the world.

Even with a desire to expand into other regions he still makes sure he supports the local community he has come to love. If you have a fundraising event he will lend you his Gelato Roma cart for the day so you can sell his gelato and sorbet. You can buy the product at wholesale prices and make some money for your cause or make your day special.

As the Roma Gelato website says “Our goal is to create the best gelato experience; our intention is to constantly surprise with quality and diversity in our products. Since day one, we have been using the very best of what Nelson and New Zealand has to offer” and that means their product is among the very best Nelson has to offer too.

I have been writing a regular wine column for The Nelson Mail newspaper since 2000.

Unfortunately the column space is not big enough to include my thoughts on all of the many wines I taste. Hopefully this blog will fix that. It also gives me somewhere to archive the many columns I write. I will also include some favourite recipes from my dearly beloved who loves cooking and of course because wine and food simply go together. I will also point you in the direction of upcoming events and websites I think are great. Enjoy, Neil

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