Arts & Culture

Sweet deal at Ratty delights students

Italian gelato master offers workshop to accompany on-campus film festival

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2015

One of Gianni Figliomeni’s P’18 signature desserts is a Charlie Chaplin-inspired chocolate hat. Composed of marshmallows with chocolate coating and coconut sprinkles, the treat resembles Chaplin’s iconic derby hat.

In collaboration with the Department of Italian Studies and Brown’s second annual Il Cinema Ritrovato on Tour film festival, Brown Dining Services hosted a demonstration of gelato preparation — including a tasting of each flavor — in the Sharpe Refectory Bakeshop Monday and Tuesday afternoons.

Owners of Il Gelatauro in Bologna, Gianni Figliomeni P’18 and Angela Lorenz ’87 P’18, came to campus to offer students a sample of their famous gelato. The icy treats were made in the afternoon and distributed at the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts prior to the Il Cinema Ritrovato film screenings on both days.

Lorenz began planning their involvement in the event last September, when she was asked by Massimo Riva, professor and chair of the Department of Italian Studies, to import the gelatos that she and Figliomeni have made for Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato for the past four years. Riva, along with students participating in the Brown in Bologna program, had the chance to taste their gelatos over the summer, which inspired the idea, Lorenz added.

Faithful to its name — “cinema rediscovered” — the festival mainly celebrates films from more than 100 years ago, as well as films from the ’50s and ’60s that have been lost over the years. Figliomeni also incorporated the “rediscovered” theme into his sweets, by revisiting a dessert cookbook from 1911 written by gelato shop owner Giuseppe Grifoni, Lorenz said. Figliomeni recreated some of the classic flavors with his own flare.

In addition to sharing the gelatos, Figliomeni and Lorenz presented a confetti candy they invented: Charlie Chaplin miniature chocolate hats. In honor of the opening of Chaplin’s movie “The Adventurer” in Buffalo, New York, 100 years ago, this dessert features cashews, coconuts, chocolate and marshmallows — four of Chaplin’s favorite foods — melded into a single creation that resembles Charlie Chaplin’s signature derby hat, Lorenz explained.

Lorenz said their shop, Il Gelatauro, is “very popular among the local people” in Italy.

“It is much better when universities and elementary schools are in session,” she said, adding that Italians do not eat as much gelato as Americans in the winter, and so gelato sales can be affected by inclement weather.

One thing that makes the gelato unique is the owners’ sensitivity to their choice of ingredients. The shop imports ingredients from locations including Bolivia, Tahiti and a town in Italy that guarantees the best kinds of pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds, Lorenz said.

“You just have to care about getting the freshest ingredients possible,” she said.

“I’m really glad that I came to the workshop and discovered how much difference individual ingredients can make,” said Dan Haugh ’16.

Another highlight of the event was the nature of the supplies that were specially chosen and brought to the Ratty Bakeshop for the demo. Cattabriga, an Italian ice cream engineering company, lent a gelato machine to the workshop valued at $40,000. The company has only just started selling this model in the United States, Lorenz said. The structure of the machine — its vertical orientation and specially designed moving parts — ensures that no air bubbles form in the gelato, Lorenz explained. A boiler machine used to prepare ingredients for certain flavors was also shipped from Italy to North Carolina and then to Providence, she added.

“It was really fascinating to learn about the scientific processes” behind making gelato, said Anne Gentry ’15. Gentry, who frequented Italian gelato shops while abroad in Bologna, said she was happy to revisit these familiar delights while obtaining an informative perspective on the process. In particular, she noted the significance of the choice of machines and unique temperatures for each flavor of gelato.

“Many of these students never spent time in dining services, so being in the basement of Ratty to have this experience with a world-class gelato maker, eating and creating these flavors — I hope it’ll be one of their lasting memories of Brown,” Lorenz said.

The final gelato demonstration and tasting session will take place today at 1 p.m. and the last film screening, at which gelato samples will be served, is at 7 p.m. in the Granoff Center.

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