Summer is pounding down the door! Are you excited?? It’s currently brought unusually warm temperatures t0 San Francisco, which is sending the entire city scrambling for ways to cool off. It so rarely gets warm here no one has air conditioning (seriously!). So when I heard there is a new shop serving up authentic Italian-style gelato in San Francisco, I had to make my way there stat.
Meet Coletta Gelato. It is a welcoming peach of a shop, and not just because of its welcoming peach color scheme. There’s bar-top seating and a nice sunny spot to enjoy your treat outside. The daily rotation of flavors are hand written on the butcher paper menu. At the counter, you find said flavors ready for scooping, but you won’t find any of those prototypical mounds of candy-colored ice cream that you might associate with gelato shops in Italy. That’s actually because those gelatos are filled with stabilizers and fillers to get them to stand up like that. Sadly, a lot of Italian gelato is made from powder these days! I know, I’m horrified too.
But Coletta founders, Antonio Massimini and Henri Waltenspühl are purists. The two share a childhood love of gelato, growing up with Italian grandparents, but they did not meet until they were getting their Masters of Management in Food & Beverage in Milan. While there, they fell in love with the idea of making the best gelato they could create. So they attended Bologna’s Carpigiani Gelato University to perfect their craft. Luckily for us, they decided to bring their gelato to the US. As Antonio explained, the decided San Francisco is the ideal location because the abundance of amazing ingredients in the Bay Area allows them to make a product that is a cut above.
At Coletta, they make their base from scratch daily. It’s a long, laborious process that includes mixing milk (that they source from local Clover Dairy), mixing it with sugar and raising the mixture to a precise temperature. Then there are the unique flavors – Coletta offers classics like Pistacchio, Gianduja (chocolate + hazelnut) and Tiramisu, but also more local-influenced options like Gauva sorbetto, fresh Peach or Mint Chocolate Chip. All of their ingredients are selected for their quality and freshness and are organic.
Coletta is also putting a foodie twist on their gelato, creating infused flavors, such a basil and chai. They even let it slip that they’re working to perfect a low-sugar option in the future! But what really sets gelato apart for me is the texture. Real, beautifully crafted gelato is light, airy and oh so creamy. You don’t feel gross after eating it. That might by why I was known to indulge as many as 3x a day when I was in Italy (eek!).
There a number of contributing factors to this. For one, unlike ice cream, gelato is made with milk and only milk. Ice creams are made with a mix of milk and cream as well as eggs. This makes gelato a lot lighter (and often half the calories!) of ice cream. Also gelato is made and kept at much warmer temperatures than ice cream. That makes it much more flavorful. Gelato also isn’t meant to be stored for a long time. It’s intended to be enjoyed the day it is made. Coletta doesn’t keep any gelato more than two days to ensure the highest quality and freshness.
After living in Italy and visiting many times since, I’ve spent years sampling gelato anywhere I see it pop up in the US, hoping to replicate the memories I have from Italy. It’s very rare that I’ve found gelato that lives up to those expectations, but Coletta actually surpasses them! The texture is perfect, the flavors are amazing (I was particularly impressed by the almond topped with coco powder) and the space is just the cutest.
But if you can’t make it downtown, fear not! Coletta has also imported roving gelato carts straight from Italy. Bike powered and totally adorable, it’s going to be popping up around San Francisco this summer. I will certainly be stalking it. Follow them on Instagram to find out where they’re popping up.
For now, head to 685 Harrison Street to get your gelato fix. Coletta is open Tuesday-Sunday 12pm – 9pm.
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original photography for apartment 34 by andrea posadas