At Gelateria Gondola we're nuts about nuts, especially when it comes to our big traditional flavours - pistachio, hazelnut and almond. Of course, not all nuts are grown equal – just as the quality and growing conditions of different grapes will produces vastly different wines, so too does the quality and origin of nuts determine the flavour of gelato. When it comes to these three nuts, the best in the world come from our homeland – Italy.
The sad truth about pistachio gelato is that overwhelmingly, it is not even made with pure pistachios. Around 85% of what is sold in ice cream shops as 'pistachio gelato' is made with a paste of pistachio, almond and chlorophyll, which gives it an artificial green colour that most people have come to associate with the flavour.
Those gelaterias that do use pure pistachio paste are more often buying a cheaper pastes derived from Iranian pistachios. Typically these gelatos lack the vibrancy of colour found in the artificially coloured versions.
Only a very small handful of manufacturers in the world (and only a few in all of Australia) actually use the premium pistachios from Sicily, Italy. We are proud to say that we are amongst that number. More specifically, the best pistachios come from Bronte, a region within Sicily at the foot of Mount Etna. The rich volcanic soil produces a quality of nut second to none. Due to the characteristics and limitation of the geographic area, these nuts are very limited in quantity and have a sweeter, fruitier and truly authentic pistachio taste.
The full name of the hazelnuts we use is "Nocciola Tonda Gentile delle Langhe" – 'nocciola' is the Italian name for hazelnuts; 'tonda' meaning round to signify their distinctive shape; 'gentile' to describe the mild flavour and high oil content; and 'Langhe' being the region of Italy where the finest Hazelnuts in the world are grown.
The Langhe region of Piedmont is renowned for its nebbiolo grape vineyards, which produce Italy's most celebrated Barolo and Barberesco wines but hazelnuts are king in the areas of Cuneo, Asti, and Alessandria. Both Piedmont wines and hazelnuts are grown and protected under strict agricultural regulations. These are the only variety of hazelnut to be awarded the certification IGP ("Indicazione Geografica Protetta" or protected designation of origin), as a guarantee of their superior quality. In July 2014, this unique area of land was included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for its beauty and cultural importance.
Hazelnuts grown in the Piedmont region are grown between 150-750 meters above sea level which gives them distinct mountain grown characteristics such as a high oil content (approximately 70%), including a high percentage of monounsaturated fat (40% in 100g).
It is believed that almonds, or mandola in Italian, were originally bought to Sicily from the Middle East before 1000 BC and they have been thriving there ever since. After olive trees, almond trees are the most widely grown fruit trees in Sicily, producing several varieties. As with our pistachios and hazelnuts however, there is a more specific variety and region renowned for producing the best almonds in the world. In this case it is Mandorla di Noto grown in the area of Noto, Avola, Rosolini, Canicattini Bagni, in the province of Syracuse, in southeastern Sicily.
What differentiates these Sicilian almonds from their global counterparts is the hardness of their shell. For example, California almonds are soft-shelled and European almonds tend to be semi-hard-shelled, whereas Sicilian almonds develop their superior and intense flavour in a very hard shell due to the almost constant sunshine and the calcium-rich soil of the region.
Whilst the hard shell holds the fats, which in turn intensifies the flavour and aroma of the nut, it also significantly reduces the yield – a Californian nut makes up about 60% of the whole almond compared to a Sicilian but which may only yield up to 22%.
We supplement our Sicilian almonds with locally grown, best-quality Australian almonds, which are also world-renowned for their flavour.
In the case of all three nuts, the specific geographical boundaries and labour intensive practices required of any small-yield, premium crop means that they come at a significantly higher price than the larger commercial crops that flood the market. This is a cost we gladly absorb to be able use the best ingredients available to make award-winning products that we can be proud of. More importantly it allows us to provide our customers the best value for the best gelato in Sydney that they can be nuts about too!