"For traditionalists, Gelato Messina has all the staples of the classic gelato repertoire. There's vanilla bean, chocolate and all manner of fruit sorbets. But for the daring, the store's real specialty is it's conceptual ice cream flavours," says Gelato Messina's co-owner, Declan Lee.
Conceptual ice cream flavours? It sounds like crazy talk, some kind of inner city, performance art hijinx, right? In fact, it's the perfect fusion of creativity and logic. Once Donato Toce (head chef) and Nick Palumbo (head gelato science guy) think of a theme, they then negotiate the complex gastronomical terrain of proteins, fat and flavour to create the smooth, creamy milk confection we know as gelato.
It's this Heston Blumenthal-style art/science nexus that has resulted in the genius combos of Number Two (peanut butter gelato, dulce de leche and chocolate brownie), Nacho Libre (avocado cream, salsa and crushed corn chips) and Porky's Revenge (pancake-flavoured gelato with maple syrup and bacon). This week's special, Spider (vanilla cream and creaming soda sorbet) is right on, fizzy and creamy, as if a gourmet grown-up hijacked my primary school tuck shop. What's next? Penne Napolitana sorbet? Notions of Australian Landscape?
One of Messina's best sellers is 'Salted Caramel and White Chocolate'. And it is pretty spectacular - that precarious balance of creamy, salty, sweet, crunchy and nutty. "This week's special is Melba's Peachy," says Declan, "It's our take on the old peach melba: raspberry coulis, vanilla cream, peaches and meringue. All of us come up with the flavours. We have a list of specials that we roll out that we know are great - about five hundred that we've done over the years. This is one of them. And every week we add another two specials. With a flavour like Nacho Libre, you need to work out a way to keep the corn chips crunchy. So we covered it in cocoa butter." Tradition be damned — we're converts.