Rafaelle “Lello” Lavezzi’s ancestors have been making gelato for four generations. We’re talking real old school: climbing up the Gulf of Naples’ Mount Vesuvius to retrieve ice, which was then paired with lemon juice or coffee to form gelato.
The family’s legacy lives on. Today it runs a gelato store named Lavezzi in the Italian coastal city of Formia.
Lavezzi himself lives in Italy, but after working with Melbourne-based Angelo Sperlinga for years exporting Italian products to Australia, the two paired up to bring the Lavezzi name and gelato to Melbourne. The first outpost opened at Eastland Shopping Centre in Ringwood in 2015. Now the team has opened a store in Melbourne’s Italian heartland: Lygon Street. Lavezzi has crossed hemispheres for the launch.
“People ask, ‘Why would you open a gelato store where there are about eight other competitors?” Sperlinga says. “But it’s really about opening a store where visitors will really value the product.”
Almost a century and a half of experience in the gelato business has resulted in strong principles. First: non troppo (not too much) sugar. Lavezzi says it kills the flavour.
Another element Lavezzi and the Sperlinga family are firm on: you can’t beat the pozetti system to store gelato. That is, the refrigerated metal wells with lids on them.
“In the pozetti, gelato doesn’t oxidise,” Sperlinga says. “You reduce the risk of contaminants by keeping the lid on, and even the UV from lighting, which changes the colour.”
Seasons play a huge role in gelato making. Not only as to what produce is used, but the temperature it’s made at, too. “In summer, people usually want a gelato that’s quite cold,” Sperlinga says. “In winter, maybe not as cold but creamier. We make it to be less icy and more mousse-like.
“The process of making gelato is actually quite simple. But it’s the base, raw materials that define how good it is.”
And the team is very careful in that regard.
“We roast all of our nuts on-site,” says Sperlinga’s daughter, Amanda Stafford, who is also involved in the business. “We then put them through a pulverising machine, which makes them into a fine liquid with nothing added – just the nuts.”
The machine also allows the store to make its own “nutella”, which is paired with peanut-butter gelato.
The nuts aren’t just any nuts, either – they’re imported from Italy. Hazelnuts come from the Piedmont region up north, where they grow best. The pistachios are from Sicily.
The result is gelato that tastes pretty much like you’re eating a nut in creamy, frozen form. Same goes for the lemon; it’s made with lemon juice from Sorrento, in south-west Italy.
Lavezzi also makes fruit sorbets and a dark chocolate variation, plus gelato cakes and granita served with panna (fresh cream), which is classically Sicilian.
It’s all very traditional, except for one thing.
“Having run the Ringwood store for a few years we’re well aware of the dietary requirements we need to cater for,” says Stafford. “We have a selection of vegan flavours, sorbet for those who are lactose intolerant and gluten-free cones, too.”
334 Lygon Street, Carlton
(03) 9347 1462
Sun to Thu 12pm–10.30pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–11pm