After a tough winter, a “slow food Movement”-inspired Gelateria and restaurant in park slope is ready for azione!
There are embarrassing but necessary moments in any writer’s career when he or she realizes they’ve met their match, when another’s passion for place, attention to detail, and poetic intonations simply kick your ass. A casual walk down the display counter at the Italian gelateria, cheese, meat, wine, and sandwich shop L’Abero Dei Gelati in Park Slope, and even a quick-fix conversation with its co-owner Monia Solighetto, is enough to drive a novice storytellers to tears.
“Named for an old military road that traverses Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, one commissioned by George Washington and built to carry troops to fight the English on the Canadian front, Bayley Hazen is a buttery, natural-rinded cow’s milk blue cheese, made primarily with morning milk…” begins an ode to just one of the 30 odd cheeses on display. Another, in describing “Kunik” raw goat variety from Nettle Meadow farm in New York, describes the triple crème cheese’s “… unique and voluptuous character.” Just about two feet away, in a case of charcuterie, a Bresaola from Salumeria Biellese (also in the Granite State) carries accompanying signage that reads, in part, that it is “…a cured beef tenderloin seasoned with red wine and juniper berries, the marble quality of which gives the melt in your mouth texture, using recipes inspired by the traditions of their ancestors in the Piedmont region of Italy.”
“We do love to give a background to our food,” smiled Solighetto, who, along with partner and brother Fabio, applied expertise the family learned in their three Lombardy-based gelato shops of the same name (the first started by the family’s mother and father) and moved to Park Slope two years ago to bring their passion for food storytelling to a new audience. Together with third partner Alessandro Trezza, the business opened in July of last year, and weathered a winter that Monia described as “just incredible.”
“We sell all kinds of things here, certainly,” she said, too busy recounting events to pay attention to her espresso. “Panini, pastries, wine, cheese, a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner service… but one of our favorite and most popular items is our gelato, and it doesn’t sell the same in winter. We just moved here, so I had no sense as to whether this was actually the kind of winter we could always expect. It was an…interesting adjustment.”
In the last few months, when weather didn’t make gelato something more than just a cruel joke, L’Abero Dei Gelati has become something of an obsession for North Slope residents, an education for kids at the William Alexander Middle School just across the avenue, and a chance for the partners to flex their “Slow Food” culinary muscles.
Founded by fellow countryman Carlo Petrini in 1986, the Slow Food movement was a broad-based attempt to emphasize effects that agro-chemicals, transport, and sourcing had upon flavor, local economies, and the environmental landscape. It has since attained wide acclaim, though is often interpreted in a fussy, doctrinaire manner. Monia, however, prefers to describe her affinity for the concept in approachable terms, such as whether “…the cows or pigs had a chance to roam free, whether pesticides were used in treating fruit and vegetables, and whether the farm itself was an asset to its community.”
Gelato ingredients, therefore, are sourced from nearby farms (and/or the nearby Grand Army Plaza farmers market), and change daily, according to Solighetto. “We had some great rhubarb this year…raspberries are just coming in, and we are expecting some other great new fruit for the summer.” With L’Abero Dei Gelati’s fat content topping out at 6% (ice cream can be 20% or more), the family gelato recipe is a boon for nearby restless health aficionados.
When asked if products of this still relatively unique type were all worth the extra expense, she replied, “The difference isn’t really the price. Well-sourced local food doesn’t necessarily have to cost more. It does cost a lot of my time, so if I had to measure that in money, I suppose I am paying more. I don’t know how to do it any other way, though.”
And neither should we. •
L’Albero dei Gelati
341 5th Ave. / 718.788.2288 / lberodeigelati.com