Gelato: A feast for the eyes
(CBS News) A serving of gelato doesn't last long under hot studio lights - nor when it's placed before anyone with a sweet tooth. Allen Pizzey found plenty of those in Bologna, the city that's the birthplace of Gelato:
La Grassa - "the fat one" - may seem an unflattering nickname for a city with the oldest university in Europe. But the sobriquet is actually a compliment.
Bologna is the gastronomic heart of Italy, a place where food is an art form.
And nothing epitomizes it like the delicacy that was born here: Gelato.
The serving area of a gelateria is a feast for the eyes. "A quick one" on the way home from work here isn't a drink - it's a gelato.
So naturally, Bologna is home to the first ever "gelato university."
Term papers here are hands-on production.
Gianpaolo Valli has been teaching for twenty-five years. "We pasteurize at 85 degrees, we cool at four degrees centigrade."
Students come from around the world, looking for a way to beat unemployment, or just looking for change.
Vince Cavallaro spent 50 years in the tailoring business before enrolling.
"Because I would like to make a good Italian ice cream and bring it to Australia," he said.
Another attraction is profit margins. It costs less than two dollars to make a pound of gelato, which can sell for up to $15.
Technique can be learned in a month. But perfect gelato needs more than a recipe.
This assignment of the day was a basic flavor - not as easy as it sounds.
"We have a mixture," Gianpaolo tells them. "Ten different kinds of stracciatella."
The coffee break is a tasting session, and pointers from teacher Pietro Bianchetto on customer relations.
"Is important that the gelato tastes good, but is also important how to communicate to the people that our gelato is good, our gelato is natural," said Bianchetto.
Gelato is Italian for "frozen" but contrary to popular belief, it's NOT ice cream.
By comparison, gelato is practically a health food, with a mere seven percent fat content - barely a third of that found in ice cream.
Flavour comes from almost any natural ingredient you can imagine.
The exception is a specialty version using alcohol. Sublime - but I wouldn't try driving a car after eating one of these.
Flavored frozen treats were recorded as far back as Mesopotamian times. Gelato as we know it was an indulgence for aristocrats in the 16th century, created by an alchemist named Ruggiero using milk, sugar and eggs.
There are more than 600 recognized flavors. The owners of this gelateria copyrighted six, and named them after their children.
Gelato makers tout their product as "the flagship of 'Made in Italy.'" But the real revolution in the history of gelato was made in America.
In 1903 an Italian immigrant named Vittorio Marchioni filed an application in Washington, D.C., to patent a device to produce an innovation that made gelato accessible to everyone: The ice cream cone.
And then there are wickedly wonderful temptations like the gelato-inspired prose by Tolstoy and Honore de Balzac.
In "Madame Bovary," Gustav Flaubert described a woman eating gelato: "Her eyes half-closed, the spoon between her teeth ..."
And if you think that's too sensual an image for a frozen food, you've never had real gelato.
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