One of my favourite treats is the Amore gelato — that delicious Italian ice cream. (Oops, sorry — Dilkash Abbas will kill me if I call it that, because she always corrects me and says a gelato is different from ice cream.) I went to her outlet at Eat Street to sample her range of gelatos and to interview her.
So remind me again, what exactly is the difference between gelato and ice-cream? I asked her.
“Gelato is a gourmet concept from Italy, which the Italians are extremely proud of,” she replied. “We hand-craft the gelato fresh every day, in micro batches, using only natural ingredients, like low-fat milk, fresh seasonal fruit, fresh cream and sugar. There are many differences between gelato and ice cream. First, gelato has a much more intense flavour than ice cream because it’s so fresh. Second, gelato is much more dense than ice cream, because ice cream often has more air pumped into it; this also adds to the intensity of the flavour. Third, ice cream is colder and harder, so it freezes the tastebuds; gelato melts in the mouth better and has a much smoother, creamier feel. Also, ice cream has more fat content, which gets in the way of the flavour and doesn’t allow it to impact the tastebuds as powerfully as a gelato does; our gelato, on the other hand, is 96 per cent fat-free.
“Also ice cream is usually made on an industrial basis, without the high-quality natural ingredients we use. And it contains chemical additives and preservatives, because it has to sit on the shelf for weeks, maybe months. All of these things add up to make a big difference in the taste. But there’s no point intellectualising it like this. Just try a blind taste test and you’ll know the difference straightaway.”
How did Amore happen? What’s the story?
“Nayyer Hussain, our founder used to go to Italy for a holiday every year. And there, in Sestre Levant, he discovered a gelateria run by Costanzo Malatto, a famous, award-winning Italian gelato chef. Nayyer soon became hooked on Costanzo’s gelatos and the two of them became good friends. They then decided to go into business together and that’s how Amore was born. Today we have 23 outlets in India, across Mumbai, Hyderabad and Gujarat. A couple of years ago, the Wall Street Journal wrote about Amore in an article that was published in their international edition.”
Wow! What exactly did the Wall Street Journal say about you?
“It was an article by their Paris correspondent about how European gourmet gelato makers are making an impact in the Asian markets, and Amore was one of the three companies they quoted. Also, Elle magazine did a feature on their ‘10 Commandments’, and one of their must-haves was gelato (along with things like sushi and the oysters at the Hilton in Mumbai).”
Okay, tell me more about Costanzo. He sounds like an interesting guy.
“Costanzo’s family has been running a gelateria near the Italian Riviera for the past 50 years and Costanzo ultimately inherited the responsibility of running it. He’s a famous gelato chef in Italy and has won several international awards for the gelatos he’s created. Today, the customers at his gelateria are a mix of the jet set who come to the nearby beaches and the third generation customers from the village, for whom these gelatos are literally a way of life.”
How many flavours do you have?
“We currently have over 150 flavours, which we rotate. Every day we probably do a dozen different flavours. Some of them are seasonal, like our fruit gelatos, because we only make them from fresh fruit, never ever from frozen fruit or canned purées. And whatever we make is sold on that day itself. It’s never re-used the next day. We made a commitment to Costanzo right at the start that we would always uphold his standards and traditions.
“Apart from gelatos we also make sorbettos, which are made from fresh fruit juices, and yoghurt gelatos. And they’re all totally fresh. Whatever we make, we sell the same day; nothing is carried over to the next day. That’s one of the secrets of our great taste.”
Dilkash invited me to sample the varieties on display — about a dozen of them. And she was right, I could notice that the flavours were more intense and natural than the average ice cream. Of all of them the best was probably the zafran gelato — a beautifully natural, authentic flavour. No comparison with the usual synthetic kesar ice cream that we’re used to.
“Yes, I believe it’s one of our best flavours,” Dilkash says. “The others I’d rank among the best are tiramisu, rose, vanilla and strawberry. They’re not necessarily the best sellers, because that’s upto the consumer’s choice.”
She then asked me what I’d liked to have. I pondered for a bit and finally asked for a scoop of vanilla gelato, accompanied by another of strawberry sorbetto. A basic vanilla flavour gives you the best idea of an ice cream’s quality, and this one had a wonderful taste of vanilla beans. It was also light and creamy. The strawberry sorbetto, meanwhile, tasted just like eating fresh strawberries. Dilkash herself, meanwhile, ordered a tiramisu, which she is so proud of.
“We are constantly experimenting and adding on new varieties all the time.” Dilkash said. “Our chef in Mumbai, Rakesh Lavangere, for example won an award for his recipe at the very prestigious SIGEP awards held every year in Italy — they’re like the international Oscars of gelato-making”
What was the flavour he invented?
Do you have it here?
“No, that flavour is not very popular
So what are the flavours that are popular in Hyderabad?
“Belgian chocolate. Butterscotch. Rum and raisin. Rose. But interestingly, it varies from area to area. Our customers at Inorbit Mall are much more adventurous than customers at Eat Street: for example, they prefer more adventurous flavours like chocolate fudge and rose. But there are always surprises. We developed a wonderful imli flavour, which we were sure would do well in Hyderabad, but it didn’t. Then, we developed a great salsa flavour, which again we thought would do very well here. But it didn’t. Likewise there are flavours that do very well in Mumbai, like masala latté, kokum and jamun. You live and learn.”
I finished my gelato and sorbetto. And more out of professional curiosity than greed, I asked to try scoops of the items that Dilkash specially recommended: tiramisu and black currant yoghurt (that’s one of the perks of being a restaurant reviewer, I guess). The tiramisu was, again, very authentic, just like the real thing — which must have been difficult to achieve. The black currant also had a very intense berry flavour and a mellow mouth-feel.
How many outlets do you have in Hyderabad? I asked.
“Six,” Dilkash replied, “GVK One, Eat Street, Prasad’s, Madhapur, Karachi Bakery and Inorbit Mall. But we also do home deliveries. And we supply to parties and corporates. If you want we’ll bring an entire dispensing unit to your place, so your guests can choose and help themselves, just like they do here. I don’t want to name names, but some of the who’s who of Hyderabad ask us to do that for their parties.”
I finally left, after having polished off four scoops of gelato, and thinking to myself that gelato is to ice cream what Ferrari is to cars. But I told myself sternly that I would have to skip dinner that night. Yes, I know Dilkash had assured me her gelatos were low fat and healthful and all that. But four scoops? Skipping dinner was the least I could do to assuage my guilt.
Anvar Alikhan is Senior VP and Executive Creative Director of JWT. He writes occasionally about food and other good things in life.
Photograph by Sucharitha Rao