GREEN MANGO & BAGOONG-FLAVORED GELATOManila, June 1, 2003 By Lynette Lee Corporal (STAR) - I scream, you scream, we'll scream for gelato. 

Green mango and bagoong-flavored gelato? You’ve got to be kidding, we almost blurted out at the smiling Italian chef Maurizio Gibillini.

"Why not?" he countered.

Crazy? You bet. Possible? Certainly, considering that gelato is notorious for pushing the limits when it comes to flavors and ingredients. According to Maurizio, who lugged around a coffeetable book on gelato during the launch of Pagliacci Restaurant’s gelato line at The Podium in Ortigas Center, there is such a thing as gourmet gelato back home in Italy. These are gelati made from unique, almost unthinkable, ingredients, like tomato, celery, basil and fennel, to name some. And, listen to this, non-gelato eaters, there are gelati with curry, ginger and saffron!

"There’s no limit when it comes to gelato flavors in Italy," says Maurizio, who began serving his beloved frozen treat in Italy and in Boracay. With such exotic ingredients, it’s no surprise indeed if Maurizio starts serving manggang hilaw and bagoong-flavored gelati in no time (with mangga and suman as a variation). That would be something, eh?

Fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on your taste preferences), there were none of those gourmet gelati during Pagliacci’s launch of the frozen line. Apart from licorice, an acquired taste I must say, the flavors were kind of tame but nonetheless varied and familiar.

For someone who isn’t that crazy about ice cream or similar frozen delights, sampling Pagliacci’s more than a dozen gelati that hot, lazy afternoon was sweet torture. Among the flavors that stood out and made a favorable impression were mascarpone, the nutty team of nocciola and pistachio, and yes, even the intimidating liquerizia (licorice). The creamy, cheesy mascarpone, with its bits of figs, the mellow quality of the nocciola (or hazelnut), the subtle taste of pistachio, and the overpowering flavor of licorice merrily mixing in my tongue made an instant convert out of me, at least as far as gelati are concerned.

Maurizio, who continuously rose from his seat to welcome regular patrons and friends who steadily trickled into the restaurant, eagerly translated into English the rest of the gelato flavors. Often, he would grope for the right words or description. Failing to do so, he would disappear momentarily – perhaps to consult an Italian-English dictionary or consult with his staff – and come back with new information. Along with his partner, Pagliacci’s general manager Moreta Obalan, Maurizio gladly answered all queries about gelato and its history.

We learn, for instance, that gelato was first created by Bernardo Buontalenti for the court of Francesco de Medici in the 16th century. The first mention of a gelato machine, meanwhile, came in the 17th century.

"But thousands of years before that, in Rome, people would take ice or snow from the mountains in a special container. They would then mix the ice with honey, wine and fruits, and serve them," Maurizio describes gelato’s predecessor, the sorbet, which was supposedly brought by the Arabs to Sicily where it was called sorbetto. Unlike cream-based frozen desserts, sorbets normally consist of fruits, sugar and water. Gelato, on the other hand, is milk-based unlike ordinary ice cream which uses cream and eggs. Gelato, unlike ordinary ice cream, is milk-based and has about 180 calories per 100 gram. This is definitely much less than other yummy treats foodies love to munch on like junk food (463 calories), peanut butter (537 calories) or even spaghetti with pomodoro (tomato-based sauce) which has 450 calories.

Maurizio likes to compare gelato with that other Italian staple – spaghetti. He says: "Everybody cooks spaghetti, but not everybody knows how. It’s the same with gelato."

The chef is also proud of the fact that his gelato offerings are made from fresh ingredients, and have no preservatives. It’s also made fresh daily, or every two days at the most. Diabetics and health-conscious people need not fret, too, for Pagliacci’s gelato also offers soya-based and sugar-free sweet treats.

Gelato can also be served in several ways. The affogato al caffee, for instance, is vanilla-based gelato with steaming coffee served in a cocktail glass. Like other chefs, Maurizio has some secret concoction involving this particular dessert and we were asked to keep our lips sealed on this one. At the moment, the restaurant serves gelato in cups (blue and pink) and glasses, while cone servings are coming soon.

Some color-coding is in order when trying out Pagliacci’s gelateria. A blue cup costs P100 and could have two to three combinations of flavors. The smaller pink cup costs P70 and can have as many as two flavors. The rose-colored glass, on the other hand, can have as many as three flavors and costs P150. A five-flavor combination costs P250. Those who like to enjoy their gelato at home could always place orders – P400 per half a kilo and P800 for a kilo.

Pagliacci offers 22 flavors at any one time and changes them after a week or two. Among the gelateria’s flavors are fiordelatte (pure milk), latte e miele (milk and honey), stracciatella (milk with chocolate chips), variegato amarena (milk with black cherry), crema (custard), tiramisu, zuppa inglese (butterscotch), cioccolato (dark chocolate), cannella (cinnamon), limoncello (lemon liquor), mediterraneo (bubblegum), malaga (raisin rum), noce (walnut), croccantino (pine nuts), vim santo cantucci (maple wine with almond cookie), vim brule (wine with orange, lemon, cinnamon and cloves), to name a few. Fruity flavors are also available, including mango, strawberry (fragola), lemon (limone), kalamansi, orange (arancia), peach (pesca), raspberry (lampone), melon and assorted berries.

Here’s a tip: Maurizio says gelato is great with either coffee or hot chocolate, but not with hot tea, which is too watery.

All ingredients, except for some locally available fruits, like kalamansi and mango, are imported from Italy. Maurizio is quite open to experimenting with other local flavors if only to prove the gelato’s versatility.

But manggang hilaw at bagoong? No thanks, we’d rather have the real thing and have licorice gelato afterwards.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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