Moro Gelato is a real piece of Italian dolce vita in Cape Town and in the process of bringing Italy’s gelato culture to South Africa. At the Woodstock based gelateria, gelato is produced the same way as in Italy and in line with that their artisan produce is sold from pozzetti installed in a beautifully designed cart.
For my first gelato talk session, I had the pleasure talking to gelato chef Stefano Moro of Moro Gelato. Moro Gelato still seems like Cape Town’s sweet Italian secret, hidden away in Woodstock’s Masons Press. Luckily the Moro gelato team can also be found on Saturdays at the Oranjezicht City farm market, as well as their gelato also making it on to an increasing number of dessert menus of restaurants across Cape Town.
Stefano, how and where did you learn your trade as a master gelato craftsman and how did the idea of Moro Gelato come about?
Gelato is in all Italians dna. I’m from Milano, and almost every street near where I grew up has its own gelateria. We traditionally consider gelato as a proper food , not just a kiddies treat. Many workers have a quick cup of gelato during their break near the office rather than a long sitting lunch, especially in the summer heat.
In Italy when we visit friends and family we bring tubs of artisanal gelato instead of cakes. Those are an exclusive duty of the owner of the house to make. Never dare to bring a cake to grandma, once I did it and she looked very offended, almost as if I was saying her cakes sucks, which they totally don’t.
So naturally I wanted to carry my habits with me when I started visiting friends in Cape Town, but I couldn’t find a proper gelato that I was happy to share.That’s why I thought there was a big gap to fill in the city.
What makes your gelateria so special?
Italian cooking is based on simple but prime quality ingredients, you just have to cook them properly to respect the full flavour. Making gelato is the same, you don’t need toppings or crazy lists of ingredients to make something tasty, just pure and seasonal ingredients make a huge difference.
Being an artisanal gelateria means also that we make small batches of gelato so that it’s always the freshest possible. Ice-cream parlors in Cape Town offer their product that sometimes is months old, packed in a central factory. In our gelateria you’ll always just see fresh fruit , while in other shops the ice-creamis made with bags and bottles of industrial products.
What is your opinion on gelateria chains, which are gaining an increasing foothold on the Italian market, and some also expanding internationally?
Some chains are very professional and they control their products very well, maintaining part of the production artisanal. In that way they keep the recipes constant, even in different part of Italy, so that you’ll enjoy in Firenze the same flavor you love in Rome. I’m against the ones who industrially make bags of frozen liquids in one spot and then just send bags worldwide that are defrosted and ready to be churned in local shops. They pretend the recipes are cooked on site. That way the gelato is not fresh. When you eat their fruit based gelato the flavor and texture are ruined by the prolonged deep freezing.
What tips would you give someone who might want to follow your footsteps and become a gelato craftsman or open their own gelateria?
Go to Bologna in the most prestigious artisanal gelato school and feel the passion of your gelato teachers. Passion will be the only thing keeping you from giving up when you see the amount of work behind proper artisanal gelato making!
Have you always loved gelato and what made you make a career of it, especially changing your career?
Since my grandma recived one of the first home making gelato machine in the eighties I loved the process of making gelato.
Working with food is an instant gratification, compared to my photography job. In fashion you take pictures but you never speak to the people that see them in magazines and shops. With a gelateria you have your customers in front of you and it’s beautifull to see happy faces while they enjoy what you cooked for them.
What is your favourite flavour to make?
It’s usually the last one I create . After a while of making one recipe you do it automatically, without almost thinking. So when I make a new flavor there’s a lot of testing and tasting , achieving top quality is very fulfilling.
What are the most popular flavours and what’s your favourite flavour to eat?
In less then 6 monhts ,since we opened the gelateria , some flavors are already classics that can not be missing from the shop, like pistacchio, cioccolato, marchese and tiramisù.
My favorite to eat always change, but I do have a constant routine. First of all I choose cups instead of cones because I like to take my time enjoying gelato, I find them more relaxing. Then I choose always three flavors in one cup : a simple cream, a more intricate one, and a sorbetto. For example pistacchio, tiramisù and mango, or nocciola, portofino and raspberries.
What makes you proud of the gelato you produce?
The best gratification comes when south african customers tell us our gelato brings them back happy memories of their trip to Italy, it means we are true to the highest tradition of gelato.
What challenges have you faced with starting the business?
The biggest dilemma was if we wanted to stay true to the tradition and use the pozzetti (sink holes take contain the gelato) for serving our customers , or to present our product in refrigerated windows that are commonly used for icecream in South Africa. We choose to stick to the highest quality, that meant to keep our gelato sunken in the counter and closed with lids , away from light, and temperature fluctuation. It’s difficult to sell a product that your customers don’t see immediately, the sight is the first sense to push everybody’s desire of shopping. We decided to surprise with taste rather than colors , so when someone tries our gelato the memory and pleasure of a proper one remains with him.
How does it feel to have your own gelateria and what do you like most about your job?
It feels great, it’s difficult to stay away from the gelateria. The best is having the chance to share a part of my culture with other people in a different country.
It wouldn’t be the same to own one in Italy, people are used to high quality already and they don’t get surprised by it anymore.
Do you have any exciting plans for the future?
Not really, we want to make what we do at the best , staying true to the artisanal values of passion and quality. That requires lots of time and energy.
We don’t want to become a quick trendy , expand quickly and then disappear. We want our gelato to be part of people’s habits just like in Italy.
What are your impressions of Cape Town’s gelato / ice cream scene, especially compared to Italy?
Basically there are not other real gelaterie in Cape Town. It’s not enough to add the word gelato to your shop, you also have to cook it and serve it in the proper way. Have you seen any of these shops using spatulas to smear the gelato on cups and cones? They can’t, because their product is too hard and icy. They have to use the icecream scooper to scrape the surface of their frozen dessert. In Italy a place serving scoops would close in two months. It happened to a priced international american chain of icecream that we have in Cape Town. They opened two shops in Milano serving scoops but they had to shut down quickly.
What kind of customers visit your shop, who are your favourite customers and who (celebrity, e.g. Madonna) would you most like to serve gelato to?
Our shop is in a complex with designers, coffee roasters, gin makers, pastry shops, hair dressers.. It’s not as comprehensive as shopping center but is full of entrepreneurs with lots of care for quality. We are far away from touristic routes so we attract customers for word of mouth.Our reputation is also reaching chefs of Cape Town’s restaurants that we love, and we are very happy they like to buy gelato from us. It’s nice to see recognition from food experts too.
The beauty of gelato is that everybody is the same in front of it , we all become kids when we eat it. I’d love to serve the most annoying and grumpy celebrity and see a smile on his face for the first time.
Thanks Stefano, for your time answering my questions and your insight into the gelato industry.
Now we know how important quality ingredients are, as well as using in season fruit for the best gelato and sorbet, go and visit Moro Gelato in Woodstock or at the Oranjezicht City farm market to see what’s currently in season.
For more information on Moro Gelato: