Meet the Master Luca Zanini

_Meet Luca Zanini, owner and operator of Sydney's Gelateria Gondola. From Northern Italy to North Sydney, find out more about the man behind the much awarded, small-batch, artisanal gelateria that has fast become a local institution, regarded by many as the best gelato shop in Sydney. _

Where were you born?

I was born in Camposampiero in the province of Padua in Northern Italy but I grew up in nearby Piombino Dese before going to school in Castelfranco Veneto in the province of Treviso.

What are your earliest memories of gelato?

In Italy, gelato is a way of life! I particularly remember spending summer holidays with my family by the beach, staying in a small apartment overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Our mum would always say that if we behaved, we could have gelato in the evening. Our reward at the end of the day would be a scoop of our favourite flavour. We'd join all the other families would come out at night to stroll along the promenade and eat gelato. These are very happy memories for me.

Did this influence you to follow your passion for gelato?

I think so. I chose to go to a Hospitality High School - IPSSAR Giuseppe Maffioli – and specialise in cooking. After 5 years, I graduated with a Diploma in cookery and then went to Stuttgart, Germany to do an apprenticeship at a place that had one of the top 10 gelato labs in Europe at that time. In the winter, I worked on the restaurant side of things but spent as much time in the gelato lab as I could. By spring, I was in the lab full time.

Where to from there?

I went back home to Italy to work as a chef for a while before heading to London to further my career. I then moved to Tenerife in the Canary Islands for a few more years before heading to Sydney in 2006.

So that's when you set up Gelateria Gondola?

Not quite. I was working as a chef but the Sydney climate and lifestyle put me back in a gelato state of mind and stirred my long held passion and dream to have my own gelato shop. I enrolled at Carpigiani Gelato University, earned my degree and worked hard towards starting my own business. In December 2013, Gelateria Gondola opened its doors.

Why was it so important to you to open your own gelateria?

Sydney is now my home so it was important to me to bring and share the best of my Italian culture with me. I also saw a lot of mass-produced gelato shops around but I wasn't seeing many truly authentic gelaterias like back home - made in small batches by artisans with premium ingredients.

What makes a good gelato?

  • Passion – I have loved gelato since I was a little boy in Italy and think about it constantly. There is nothing in the world I would rather do than make gelato.
  • Skill – Most gelato these days is made in fully automated machines but the best gelato is still made in small batches with the chef in control of the full process.
  • Equipment – We use a Cattabriga Vertical Batch freezer to make our gelato. The batches are smaller but this allows us to be creative, innovative and artisanal in the flavours we create.
  • Ingredients – We use only the best and freshest ingredients and you can taste the difference. We use 100% jersey milk which we pasteurize from scratch in our own laboratory, fresh local produce for true fruit flavours, nuts from Italy and around the world – only the best. We never use ready-to-use bases, hydrogenated fats, animal gelatins or prepackaged powders and syrups.

What are you most proud of?

We've won several awards now – gold, silver and bronze medals – but what I'm most proud of is our loyal customers and the feedback and recommendations they give us. I'm also proud of our commitment to the environment – the gelateria runs on 100% green energy and we are moving towards 100% recyclable and compostable packaging.

What's next for Gelateria Gondola?

We have recently partnered with the Ice Team 1927 and Crew Australia as their representative in Sydney. Anyone interested in top of the range gelato making equipment is able to come to Gelateria Gondola to see it in action. We're also happy to be collaborating with them on the Gelateneo Gelato School, which originates in Angiola, Bologna – the same region of Italy that Cattabriga comes from. It's an exciting opportunity to be able to contribute so much back to the industry I love.

And most importantly, what is your favourite flavour?

As a boy, I preferred the fruity sorbet flavours like strawberry and rockmelon but now as an adult, I prefer the creamier, nuttier gelatos. Pistachio is definitely the King of Gelato for me.