Ah, the tropics. A holiday cocktail of sun, sand and the sea barely an hour from any point in the city (well, not with the road works as of writing). The sweet dances on the tongue tip before the bitters wash over the sides, the alcohol pouring into the throat both warm and icy cool, raising the body’s temperature to escape as rivulets of sweat chasing shadows and shade between the greys of the inland concrete jungle. Living in Paradise, I chug that by the keg. Times a’ changing, climes a’ changing and that petulant kid, Nino, tugs incessantly on shirt collars and pit hairs to his sole enjoyment. That same sticky, sweet heat can be a curse.
Relief has been a huge business since the dawn of refrigeration around these parts. The influx of American-style ice cream parlors and soda fountains spawned side street and pushcart versions peddling every shape and state of cold delights. God, I miss — yes, we had a — Coney Island. Ice cream definitely had its heyday back when Sharon loved herself a little (too much) and, I believe, it was that intense commercialism that later inspired the smaller-scale and artisanal.
Enter: Gelato. Not ice cream. Gelato. With less air content than ice cream, it has more intense flavors. That makes up for the flavor loss from the generally lower fat content and contributes to the softer and smoother texture. It is also served at a lower temperature than traditional ice cream and is dispensed using dedicated spatulas to prevent unintentional mixing of flavors. Quality and consistency is also guaranteed by production in small batches in-store, true to its artisanal origins. Many a home-based and small-store ice cream and gelato brands have come and gone since then and a few stronger brands remain with a foothold in what is probably niche markets.
The Australia-based gelateria, Gelatissimo, finally landed on our shores with a maiden outlet in SM City Cebu. Great reception warranted a second outlet within the year and The Capital fell to a café concept barely a year after that. Gelatissimo expanded further across the Northern and central metros and their ninth incarnation was in another Gelatissimo Café, the first in Cebu, at the Streetscape. The menu now features specialized gelato preparations on top of a wide array of pastries to complete the café setup.
My usual cup at Gelatissimo would consider sour, salty, savory and bitter on top of the given sweet. My all-time favorite is their Chili Chocolate — what I’d imagine to be a gelato version of my favorite Mexican Spice Hot Chocolate Drink from a local chocolate café. Sweet chocolate flavor registers first followed by the false heat from the chili wrestling with the naturally cold temperature with everything held down by the cocoa bitters. An aggressive combination would either be a Lemon or Lime to counter the spice. Rounding off the five flavors would be any of the salted or cheesecake flavors to bring in salty and savory with my lean towards Lemon Cheesecake or Salted Caramel.
Gelatissimo Streetscape gets more creative with their existing lineup of dessert creations with their new presentations. A nod to the Pinoy snack favorite of ice cream sandwiched in bread is in their Balls In A Bun with your choice of gelatos in a Brioche, hotdog-type bun.
A variant of the above is their Popping Belgian Waffle Stack with your choice of two gelatos sandwich-stacked between toasted waffles and served with strawberry sauce and popping candy.
Gelatissimo’s Milk and Cookies play up that classic combination with the inclusion of, again, your choice of gelatos with cookie crumbs, bite-sized cookies, sauces and a refreshing chocolate milkshake.
Them artsy-fartsies can get creative with the Michaelangelo where gelato plays a blank canvas to mediums of sauces and sprinkles.
Gelatos molded into “maki” rounds rest on cookie crumb and served with chocolate sauce on the side in their Sushi Gelato. Meant to be eaten with the inclusive chopsticks, it made for an interesting if not a challenging treat.
Strangely featuring no gelato is Gelatissimo’s All About Chocolate. A deceptively gelato scoop-shaped chocolate mousse was in an artful disarray with chocolate truffle, a Nutella-filled tart and a cluster of nutty, white chocolate served with strawberry sauce, biscuit crumb and warm melted chocolate. This was a good break from the cold selections along with their other cakes and pastries to enjoy with their straight-up Illy coffees and specialty drinks.
I’d be at risk for tonsillitis if I plowed through the rest of the menu in a sitting. There’s always a return visit to Streetscape and an excuse for dessert or a gelato-run at Gelatissimo. Tell me about your Gelatissimo experience. 😉
Gelatissimo Cafe is located at Streetscape, Paseo Saturnino, Maria Luisa Road, Banilad, Cebu City.