Botolino's Zucchotto cake with dark chocolate semifreddo, amarena sour cherry gelato, flourless chocolate cake, and Luxardo liqueur. (Photo c/o Botolino.)

Dessert

Botolino’s Gelato Cakes Are Edible Works of Art

The frozen confections are like nothing you’ve had.

As anyone who loves gelato was, I was delighted when Carlo “Botolo” Gattini opened his gelateria Botolino on Lowest Greenville. The corner shop, with its tiled front and hand-painted mural is a temple of authenticity, where classic Italian gelato coffers called “pozzetti” preserve the integrity of gelato made with no preservatives and tremendous care. Chocolate sorbetto is dark, intense midnight, channeling Valrhona grand cru; dairy-free hazelnut involves organic soy milk and Piedmont hazelnuts; and sorbets are made with 50 percent fresh fruit. Organic milk and cream go into mounds of Persian Flower (Iranian saffron, Bourbon vanilla, and orange zest) or the olive oil gelato made with Ligurian olive oil.

Gattini privileges classic Italian flavors, but also a little whimsy, like dulce de leche or infused white coffee. But he’s also serving gelato sandwiched between two slices of bread—brioche-style—as is the custom in Italy. And he’s crafting more avant-garde versions of cakes and confections called mono-porzione, single-portion worlds of texture that he says have been neglected in Italy. Neglecting these seems a crime.

He reveres the classics, but he compares his gelato parfaits and cakes’ layering to molecular gastronomy, the desire for intense flavors and constant change on the palate. They make him dream. “Imagine a golden egg,” he says. “But it’s a frozen dessert. And you cut into it and it has a core of a yolk and the consistency of a yolk.” Hundreds of years, Italians were serving lemon gelato scooped in the shape of a lemon. They’ve been ahead of the ice cream craze for centuries. “They’ve been doing it for years,” Gattini says.

Half semifreddo and half gelato, the confections in his current line hold layers of liquor-soaked sponge cake for a more adult indulgence: hazelnut chocolate semifreddo and candied Sicilian orange peel meets Grand Marnier in the Gianduja; there is amarena and chocolate; white coffee and chocolate; a lady finger-based tiramisu. They’ll all gorgeous.

Gattini is a third-generation creator in the culinary realm. Gattini’s grandmother, Fernanda Gosetti, wrote cookbooks on Italian regional cuisine, cheese, gelato, “la cucina rapida” and other topics, and revived the magazine La Cucina Italiana. Gattini, born in Milan, grew up in Tuscany and moved to Dallas at age 15, where his father opened MoMo’s Italian Kitchen. Gattini worked there 30 years and eventually took over. But gelato spoke to him. His grandmother had a latteria (a dairy-specific store), his great-grandfather owned a gelateria, and the first thing Gattini’s grandmother taught him to make was desserts. He always had a desire to open a gelateria, he says, and so he sold Momo’s trained to make gelato in Bologna, and made the leap.

His shop reflects simplicity, quality, and respect for ingredients and process. The whimsy involved in the frozen desserts thrills him. The technical details also appeal to his meticulousness. With the parfaits and cakes, he’s able to take you on a journey, with a growing intensity as you go down through the layers. He compares it to molecular gastronomy—the desire for flavor, intensity, and constant change. But in his case, the goal is classicism, not invention, he would say. “My job is to reproduce what has already been done well.”

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