Palazzolo’s prides themselves in making everything from the finest ingredients and freshest seasonal fruits. Photo by Yuksel Reklam | IST.
KAREN HOCHMAN is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE.
Last Updated July 2009
Palazzolo’s Artisan Gelato & Sorbetto
500 Gelato Flavors, From Good To Amazing
CAPSULE REPORT: Palazzolo’s Artisan Gelato & Sorbetto in Saugatuck, Michigan, makes gelato in seasonal flavors, fresh to order. And they’re not only kosher, but the highest form of kosher—Cholov Yisroel. Like Philadelphia’s Capogiro Gelato and New York City’s Il Laboratorio Del Gelato, Palazzolo’s gelato is 100% natural and made of the finest quality ingredients. It’s a very different style, though. Capogiro and Il Laboratorio make a very elegant and sophisticated style of gelato in European flavors (chestnut, crème fraîche) that top chefs could pass off as their own; Palazzolo’s is more family-restaurant style gelato—a bit sweeter and a lot more fun, with large mix-ins that include big pieces of fruit, ladyfingers and other goodies. Don’t miss the Kahlua Tiramisu and the French Chocolate Brandy Caramel Fudge—it may sound like a mouthful, but what a mouthful! The company makes its products fresh every day—so choose from 500 flavors! If you’d like to have the gelato every day, Pete Palazzolo will help you open your own gelato shop!
Most gelato differs from French ice cream (which has an egg custard base) and American-style ice creams. With less cream and less air, your taste buds get closer to the flavor ingredients. Pete Palazzolo likes to think of it as old-style ice cream, more dense, before the commercialization of ice cream added more air into the mix to increase the yield. Italians aren’t into Oreo Chip (they don’t have Oreos, for one thing) but into berries, nuts, chocolate and coffee flavors. Go to an Italian gelateria in the Old Country, and the lineup may include Banana, Caffe (coffee), Cioccolato (chocolate), Fior di Latte (which translates to Cream—in essence, vanilla without the vanilla flavoring), Fragola (strawberry), Frutti di Bosco (mixed berry, generally blueberries, blackberries, raspberries), Gianduja (chocolate and hazelnut), Limon (lemon), Menta (mint), Noce di Cocco (coconut), Nocciola (hazelnut—the Piedmont region of Italy grows some of the world’s finest hazelnuts), Pesca (peach), Pistacchio (pistachio), Stracciatella (fior di latte and chocolate—think vanilla fudge) and Vaniglia (vanilla).
In Saugatuck, Michigan, Pete Palazzolo marches to the beat of a different drummer.
He makes an authentic Italian-style gelato, including all of the flavors above—but he makes 500 flavors. Pick a flavor family: Chocolate, Coffee, Flavors Of Italy, Fresh Fruit, Liqueurs, Nuts & Things, Seasonal and Vanilla. Drill down, and whatever you want, Palazzolo’s is likely to make it. Like coffee ice cream? There are 13 variations, from Turkish Roast, an espresso ice cream with fine-ground coffee specks (more about it below) to Cappuccino Orange Peel, creamy coffee ice cream with fresh orange pulp and zest. Chocolate lover? There are 44 choices, which pretty much include everything you can imagine plus a few you probably won’t—like White Chocolate Poppy Seed (a panna base with white Swiss chocolate chunks and poppy seeds) and Mexican Chocolate Chipotle, with cinnamon, chipotle chiles, chocolate chunks and raspberries.
But before we delve in to some of the 500 flavors, let’s take an academic look at the often-misunderstood frozen delight called gelato.
The Difference Between Gelato & Ice Cream
You’ll often read that there are two main differences between gelato and ice cream: more dense and lower fat, both of which engender greater intensity of flavor. While both ice cream and gelato can be produced in the same type of ice cream machine (a batch freezer), gelato is spun at a much lower speed, minimizing the overrun (the amount of air whipped in). Because of the low overrun, gelato can weigh twice as much as regular ice cream. Greater density means greater flavor.
The second major difference is that gelato is made with more milk and less cream, so there’s less butterfat—less of a “fat slick” on the tongue. The lower fat content means that there’s a greater ability to taste the intensity of the fresh ingredients. Italian gelato typically has 4% to 8% butterfat (though American gelato can have more), compared to 10% to 18% for American ice cream (supermarket ice cream on the low end, superpremium pints on the high end).
Here’s a third factor: Good gelato is made from scratch, from the freshest seasonal ingredients. Unfortunately, there are a quite a few “instant gelato” operations that provide people who want to own gelato shops with machines and mixes. No fresh fruit enters those stores to be puréed, no chocolate is melted, no nuts are ground. It’s just flavorings added to a base mix. The end product may be satisfying the way a Dairy Queen can satiate, but it doesn’t taste fabulous, and it’s not an authentic gelato experience.
True gelato is made from the freshest ingredients, including fruits in season, Photo by Sergey Kashkin | IST.
The density, along with the lower butterfat and the freshness of ingredients, delivers a rich ice cream experience—not “rich” in fat, but rich in flavor. That’s why many people who enjoy intense flavors prefer gelato to ice cream. Caveat emptor, though: We’ve seen some pints labeled “gelato” that really are are superpremium ice cream—low overrun but high butterfat.
Why? Companies want to cash in on something that sounds more exciting than “ice cream,” and most consumers don’t know the difference. Look at the label: If cream comes before milk on the ingredients list, and if it has more than 200 calories per serving, it’s ice cream.
However, according to an article in Dairy Foods magazine,* even “classic” gelato is no longer classic in Italy where the style of gelato can vary significantly by region—to this very “superpremium” ice cream style.
The magazine reports that in the south, particularly in Sicily, gelato is made with milk and no egg yolks, and sometimes includes a thickener such as cornstarch—the classic style. However in central Italy, such as in Tuscany, it is made from a milk and egg custard, while up north, it is very rich, using cream and eggs to make gelato in a French custard style. No matter what the recipe, the overrun is minimal, retaining the density and heightened flavor for which gelato is known.†
*“2004 Ice Cream Outlook,” by Donna Berry, Dairy Foods, March, 2004.
† Density notwithstanding, a French custard style with cream will suppress the flavor with its extra fat.
Palazzolo makes a traditional gelato—no egg yolks, no cornstarch, just a very dense and flavorful frozen delight.
Palazzolo Gelato Flavors
In fact, Palazzolo’s makes more than 500 frozen delights,* gelati and sorbetti in flavors from the traditional to Buttermilk Sour Cream and Lavender Honey. If you can’t find your perfect flavor on their current roster, they will custom-make it for you—since all of their gelato is made fresh daily, it’s no problem.
*Not all available to be scooped on any particular day, but the recipes are available to be made seasonally, or by custom request.
We worked our way through a dozen flavors. Most are nicely understated—you taste the fruit, the nuts or the chocolate—not sugary-sweet frozen stuff. The analogy is to a bowl of berries and cream, with a little sugar to sweeten the dish. Some are more pronounced, and we’ll start there.
The Showy Flavors
“Showy” flavors are those that we found to have more sugar, more action, more big flavors going on.
- Biscuit Tortoni. There’s actually a biscuit in this tortoni. Not a feathering of macaroon crumbs, but big coconut cookies, tasting like macaroons are surrounded by a vanilla gelato flavored with rum.
- Toasted Coconut Almond Fudge Gelato. Like coconut? Like almonds? You’ll find lots of them here. This flavor reminded us of a trip to the ice cream parlor: a sweet base, texture and flavor from lots of ground toasted coconut, crunchy toasted almond slices and a thick, dark fudge sauce. There’s a sundae in each a scoop.
The Classic Flavors
- Banana Caramel Praline. Banana gelato with whole pecans in a caramel sauce. It’s subtle and nice.
- French Chocolate Brandy Caramel Fudge. Like chocolate ice cream? Lay in a lot of this one! Quite an exceptional flavor, something with a title like this could have ended up in the “Showy” category. But it has so much finesse, we’d almost put it in “Elegant.” Cocoa Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder, from France, with a 22% to 24% fat content (regular cocoa powder has half that), makes it rich and flavorful—but it’s gelato, so it’s not slick. There’s a touch of brandy in the ice cream—enough to delight the palates, but not so much that kids won’t eat it. Then, a caramel swirl is added—elegant, not showy—and instead of hard chocolate morsels, there are big chunks of fudge, which don’t freeze rock-hard, but are soft and chewy chocolate. Another flavor that’s a sundae in of itself.
- Kahlua Tiramisu. Strictly for grown-ups, there’s a powerful hit of Kahlua in the soaked ladyfingers that pervade the mascarpone gelato. This flavor is so good, we prefer it to regular tiramisu, the pudding.
- Fresh Mango Sorbetto. The creamiest mango sorbetto we’ve ever had, probably due to a touch of cream in the recipe. These mangos were from heaven: We could have eaten a quart without stopping.
- Mixed Berry. Palazzolo’s homage to Frutti di Bosco tastes like berries in a bowl of cream. Blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries make up into a nice, pink berry ice cream. Some of the berries are sweet, some are tart, and the frozen berries are crunchy; so there’s an interplay of tastes and textures in every bite (also, lots of blackberry seeds).
- Triple Dark Chocolate. If you’d like something more restrained, dark chocolate ice cream, a dark chocolate swirl, and shaved dark chocolate might do it for you. It’s good, barely sweet (by which we mean, not sugary), and would get a nod of approval from the most sophisticated Italian palate.
- Roasted Pistachio. Double enjoyment for pistachio lovers: Fresh-roasted pistachios are ground into the gelato base, and large whole pistachios are scattered throughout. It’s like having a side of pistachios with your pistachio ice cream.
- Swiss Chocolate Couverture. Described as “Dutch chocolate blended with Swiss double cream couverture chocolate,” this is a very nice milk chocolate ice cream with crunchy flecks of dark chocolate. And it is very creamy.
- Tahitian Vanilla. Experts advise that an establishment should be judged by its basic vanilla and chocolate. This vanilla is a star—no smack of vanilla extract, just pure vanilla seeds and the crunch of fresh-scraped flecks of pod. Although this is not a custard (egg) base, it has all the lusciousness of a custard. If you live for vanilla, this is perfect.
The Elegant Flavors
- Dolce De Leche. This is a serious dulce de leche (dolce in Italian). Although there’s a swirl of caramel, amazingly, it’s not sweet (and that’s a good thing).
- Pineapple Passion Banana Sorbetto. A blend of three great fruits, the sorbet has fresh banana and pineapple pieces. It’s different and refreshing.
- Raspberry Tiramisu Gelato. Kahlua-accented ladyfingers and many whole raspberries sail in a base of mascarpone gelato. This is a special flavor. First, whenever you can have mascarpone ice cream, grab it. With ladyfingers? Slam dunk! We look forward to variations of this flavor year-round, as different fruits come into season.
- Red Raspberry Sorbet. A raspberry sorbet unlike any other, this one is so chock-full of whole red raspberries, it’s almost frozen raspberries surrounded by some raspberry sorbet. It’s visually beautiful, too. You get your money’s worth.
- Turkish Roast Coffee. A favorite of chefs and gourmets, espresso beans are finely ground and mixed into robust coffee gelato. The specks throughout give a bit of extra texture, and the gelato is a coffee lover’s delight.
Pawel Zawistowski | IST.
- White Chocolate Raspberry Gelato. In a creamy white chocolate base dwell large chunks of white chocolate and a field of whole red raspberries. The most elegant flavor—you’d think white chocolate would be sweet, but it isn’t. Instead, the slight tartness of the raspberries offset the sweet cream.
Saugatuck, Michigan isn’t exactly on the beaten track. But thanks to Federal Express and dry ice, you can beat a path to Palazzolo’s as often as you like. Or, open your own gelateria. Palazzolo’s has helped more than 200 people nationwide realize their dream of opening a star-quality gelato shop. If you do open one....we’d love a half-gallon of that Tiramisu.
PALAZZOLO’S ARTISAN GELATO & SORBET
GELATO: Many flavors including Banana Caramel Praline, Dark Venezuelan Chocolate, Dolce de Leche, Fresh Coconut Cream, Italian Roast Coffee, Mackinaw Island Fudge, Mascarpone Caramel Pistachio, Milk Chocolate Couverture Peanut Butter Swirl, Mixed Berry, Roasted Pistachio, Swiss Chocolate Couverture, Tahitian Vanilla, Toasted Coconut, Triple Dark Chocolate, Triple White Chocolate
SORBETTO: Fresh Blood Orange, Fresh Coconut, Fresh Green Apple, Fresh Mango, Fresh Red Raspberry, Limoncello, Passion Fruit, Rose Petal Champagne
Certified Kosher by Chicago Rabbinical Council (Cholov Yisroel)
- Gelato & Gift Sets
$32.00 to $180.00
Depending On Size &
Number Of Flavors
- Shipping & Handling
About $60.00 (so it
pays to buy a lot, or
go in with friends)
Order online at 4Gelato.com
Yummy tubs of Palazzolo’s Gelato: Tahitian Vanilla, Dark Venezuelan Chocolate and White Chocolate Raspberry.
Want an even bigger portion? Here are Roasted Pistachio Gelato, Passion Fruit Gelato and Fresh Red Raspberry Gelato.
You also can telephone 1.800.4GELATO to see if there is retail distribution in your area. Prices and flavors are verified at publication but are subject to change.
Orders received by Monday are shipped Wednesday for Thursday delivery, before noon. Someone must be at the address to receive the delivery.