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Gelatician's Gelatician of the Month
Angela Damiani

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Gelatician Home Page & Intro


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When Angela Damiani first started swiping gelato in Providence’s Federal Hill, she wasn't thinking about a career. “I was fifteen years old”, Angela says, “and working in a gelato shop was the perfect after school job. I got to see all my friends and ate as much gelato as I wanted!. It was the most fun I’ve ever had at work!”.

Ms. Damiani has come a long way since growing up in Rhode Island’s Little Italy. After high school, she earned her BSc at Brown University and soon began working for a gold brokerage firm in Providence. Angela recalls, “I was lucky to find work right after college. The job was actually great and paid very well. But the idea of trading commodities from a cubicle all day, every day, for the rest of my life, was unthinkable”.

Angela dreamed about the days when she worked in the small gelato shop in Providence and how everyone that came in had a smile on their face and even bigger ones when they left. After working as a gold broker for two years, she decided to follow her dream and began researching the possibility of opening her own shop.

There was a problem: there wasn't much to research. “I remember trying to find demographics on the web and coming up empty search after search”, she says. “My options were pretty limited. Market reports for gelato sales in North America were useless because there simply wasn't much to report”.

Angela contacted one of her former Economics’ professors at Brown and explained her predicament. Her professor suggested that when thinking ‘out of the box’ isn't enough, it’s time to make a new box... Angela took his advice quite literally and that summer she left her job at the firm to open a gelato kiosk in a local mall having decided to trade gold for cold!

“The kiosk was the best decision I’ve ever made”, Angela remembers. “I was at a crossroads and had a choice. I could do my own research or pay a marketing company to develop one for me. The kiosk was a relatively low investment and I would have probably spent the same if I had to pay for the research. Besides, the mall that I selected was in the same area as where I would eventually be operating. These ‘locals’ were the best demographics I could have hoped for since they WERE my prospective clientele”.

A few months before opening her kiosk, Angela returned to the old neighborhood at Federal Hill to visit her childhood boss and ask him to work in his shop for a few months without pay. He didn't hesitate and began teaching her the art of artisan gelato making. He also recommended that she participate in a professional gelato making course. So after working at the shop, she enrolled in an intense artisan gelato training program at the Italian Institute for Advanced Culinary and Pastry Arts in Italy.

Angela Damiani continued to operate her kiosk even when she opened her shop two years after venturing into the world of gelato. Her gelateria, “SottoZero” (“Below Zero”), enjoyed tremendous success and eventually jettisoned Angela into the consulting sector. Today, she spends most of her time in Italy where she actually rolls out shops for Italian clients based on an American business model. The rest of her time is spent traveling throughout North America where her consulting specialty is the integration of authentic Italian flavor.

Interview with Angela Damiani

Gelatician: Thank you for taking the time out today and congratulations on being Gelatician’s first Gelatician. To what do you attribute your initial success?

Angela: First and foremost, the gelato was excellent! I had a small showcase, just six flavors and space overall was extremely limited. Since I didn't have the luxury of being able to quickly replace someone's “favorite” flavor, every one had to be amazing. I didn't have any employees and I remember gelling constantly while serving people the flavors they wanted while having other people taste flavors they wouldn't ordinarily order. To their surprise, and mine at the beginning, people would order those other flavors after seeing how good they were.

There’s something else really important. When I opened the kiosk eleven years ago, I spent a lot of time speaking with clients about the product. I had to because most people really didn't know what gelato was except for “Italian ice cream”. I was continuously educating people about gelato so much so that some of my regulars used to call me the gelato teacher!

I have the same philosophy today and when I consult I make it a point to my clients to train their staff to do the same. Gelato IS a great choice for a dessert or snack and it’s in all of our best interests that everyone knows it.

Gelatician: Angela, you’ve come a long way from when you first started with your kiosk and then SottoZero. Now that you’ve seen so much in the gelato world, how would you say the industry has changed since then?

Angela: Wow, there’s been so many changes! I think that the clientele has changed almost as much as the industry itself. Now, many more people have at least heard of gelato. That, in itself, sets the stage for a big leap forward for the sector.

When I first started, there were just a few machines that you could get your hands on and sourcing ingredients was a nightmare. There are plenty of manufacturers that are ready to deliver nowadays and sourcing is getting easier by the day.

Gelatician: When your first gelato boss suggested that you take a course to fine tune your gelato skills, you took a big step and went all the way to Italy. Tell us about your experience there.

Angela: My old boss, Mario Luponi, was a true gelatician. He was 75 years old when I returned there and he still had books in his laboratory. He was always was so excited whenever he spoke about gelato. And he didn't ‘suggest’ that I go to school, he insisted on it!

I was born in Italy but hadn't been back since I was a kid so traveling there was a big step. But, at the same time, it was a no-brainer because with the exception of learning from some manufactures or suppliers, there was nothing available in North America that even pertained to gelato education. Besides, I needed more than just a two day demo course, I needed to learn.

The experience was great. I had the opportunity to see, taste and make a LOT of gelato! One of the best aspects was that the school didn't endorse anything. They taught us about all the different machines and products so we could make an educated choice based on what was truly the best objectively and/or for our personal needs. I returned for another course a few years later and am still in touch with them today.

Gelatician: You spend a lot of time between Italy and North America these days. What would you say are the biggest differences between gelato here and in Italy?

Angela: The gelato itself, and I’m obviously only talking about the best examples, isn't that different. Great gelato is great gelato. It's the business atmosphere where we find the greatest differences. In Italy, gelato is ‘just’ gelato. It’s marketed for what it is: delicious and wholesome. Contrarily, in North America too many operators want their shops to resemble high end jewelry stores. I find myself constantly having to tell my clients that own shops to chill out. Pun intended! Gelato is not and should not be presented as a luxury food. We want everyone to eat gelato everyday. THAT is what the main difference is between Italy and North America and THAT’S the bridge we need to gap!

Gelatician: Let’s switch to your operation for a moment. How big was your shop and what was your daily production in high season?

Angela: In addition to the laboratory, SottoZero had 1500 sq.ft. I had just a few tables inside since most of my traffic was walk-in walk-out. There were two upright glass freezers with secondary products, mostly cakes and small desserts. The showcase had eighteen flavors distributed in 5 lt. tubs. In season, we sold approx. 300 lt.-400 lt. a day.

Gelatician: What machinery did you use?

Angela: I had two Carpigiani batch freezers, a 40/60 and a smaller machine. I also had a Bravo combo machine. All three pasteurizers were Carpigiani, one being a Pasto Chef. I didn't have any aging vats, I used the pasteurizers for that whenever I could.

Gelatician: You had an opportunity to work with both conventional batch freezers and a combo machine. Of the two philosophies of production which one do you prefer: thermo shock or aging?

Angela: I used a small combo machine at the kiosk because I had limited space and even more limited time with no way to store product for aging even if I wanted to. When I opened the shop I wanted a method that I was comfortable with. The Bravo was my security blanket.

I like thermo shock for many lean mixes. They are considerably smoother. I would never use the combo machine for very dense gelato like chocolate or even hazelnut or pistachio, both of which need the time to age. With that being said I think my biggest regret was not having an upright machine since both the batch freezers and the combo were horizontal. It was not until I returned to school in Italy that I got to really know and appreciate the gorgeous body that the upright renders.

Gelatician: Angela, you have a broad knowledge of gelato and when we talk I'm still impressed about your understanding of the industry as a whole, from crafting artisan gelato to awareness of the current status of the sector and of the marketing aspect. What advice would you give someone if they wanted to rollout a gelato business?

Angela: Learn!!! The first time I asked my gelato mentor Mario what the ‘secret’ to great gelato is he said, “Learn it yourself”. The biggest step forward that I took was to participate in a comprehensive training course. Whereas some of the courses presented by machine manufacturers are OK, they are certainly not objective. Until we attend a course by impartial educators we can never really learn every point of view in the gelato making process.

Gelatician: OK Angela, thanks again for giving us your time today. I know we will continue to hear about you for a long time to come. One last question that we all want to know. Are you a gelato lover yourself and, if so, what are your favorite flavors?

Angela: I adore gelato!!! I’m a chocolate freak so that’s a given. But I enjoy tasting all flavors especially seasonal and theme flavors like pumpkin and sweet potato at Thanksgiving, panettone at Christmas, etc. I’m dying to try the Savory Pistachio that you have in this issue!

Thank you so much for this opportunity and honor!
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Italian Culinary Exploration, Professional Culinary and Baking Program, 1 WEEK FULL IMMERSION & ALL INCLUSIVE, Italian Culinary Institutes, The Italian Institute for Advanced Culinary and Pastry Arts, Cooking Schools, Cookery Schools, Professional Italian Cuisine, CAST Alimenti, Calabria, Italy, Brescia, Italy, Venice, Italy, Badolato, Italy, Soverato, Italy, Italian Haute Cuisine, World Class Culinary Competitions, Culinary World Cup, Pastry World Cup, Coupe du Monde, John Nocita, Gualtiero Marchesi, Iginio Massari, Pierre Herme


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