Usually when you ask a gelato maker which flavour they’re most proud of, you’ll hear something classic – pistachio, panna cotta, coffee or maybe a fruit sorbet. Michael Papaianni, the owner of Petersham’s recently opened Gelato Republic, has a very different answer.
“Avocado and balsamic vinegar,” he says with a grin. It’s not a flavour we’ve ever seen but neither are many of the flavours here. The fridges at Gelato Republic have as many unexpected options as they do regular flavours. There’s a semi-savoury black olive and basil; a lime-coloured wasabi that’s subtle but stinging, and a turmeric, ginger and lemon that tastes like powerful health tonic.
The other oddity here is that half the flavours are labelled non-dairy. None of them are sorbets, though – they’re creamy, nutty and chocolatey, just made with soy and nut milks. “I wanted to create a vegan range which tasted like it had dairy. I spent a lot of time trying to balance it all. I'm quite happy with it,” says Papaianni.
There’s vegan black sesame, peanut butter and classics like fig and walnut. Sometimes he’ll make a dairy-based batch and the next week the same flavour might be vegan. Papaianni will never have both versions of the same flavour. “I want people to try the non-dairy flavours, so I keep them different,” he says.
It’s odd then, for a gelateria catered towards vegans and lactose intolerants, that there aren’t any sorbets at all. “I might in the future but if I do anything it’ll just be lemon. That’s the original sorbet, classic.”
The focus is just on the art of gelato, something Papaianni learnt from John Nocita (a well-known Calabrian chef). Compared to other gelato vendors in Sydney, it’s less gummy and softer, closer to soft serve without being completely devoid of bite. “It's traditional in that it's all made in-house but modern in the sense I'm testing the boundaries with my flavours,” says Papaianni of his style.