The traditional scoop (or three) of gelato into a cone or a cup does not give a lot of opportunity for artistic expression. Auckland-based Giapo is one of a new breed of gelaterie that are taking gelato to a whole new level. Is this simply style over substance? Or does the eating experience justify the extra effort? Read on…
While on a recent visit to Auckland, Rose (my host) took me to the heart of the old red light district. Despite being fairly late on a chilly weeknight, Giapo was packed, with a queue snaking out of the door.
It’s not a big place, with only a few seats inside, but more seating is available outside. Earlier this year Giapo moved into these new premises, with the fit-out being a radical departure from that of a traditional gelato counter with rows of tubs or, for a really traditional establishment, pozzetti. In fact, there was no gelato counter at all!
There was a real buzz inside. At the head of the queue, friendly servers were handing out samples and taking orders. Waiting in anticipation for their treats, a crowd of people was milling around.
The kitchen is elevated at the back of the shop. If Rose and I were a little taller, and the crowd a little smaller, we might have seen more of the creation process.
It seemed a weird system, but there was some sense to it, once you see the complexity of the menu offerings. Scooping gelato, carefully positioning a variety of other elements, even blasting with a blowtorch. Easier to do in a kitchen than on the shop floor. Best to keep that blowtorch away from customers.
Each one of the items on the gelato menu is individually styled. You pick one (or two) flavours, and the “Hold Me” delivery mechanism – cups, various types of cone, Yorkshire pudding, fried bread (it’s a Maori thing) – the gelato is scooped on top and then the decoration is added. Servings are huge – for most people there is no need to add a second flavour.
If the regular menu items are not enough, there are also Whammies (extras) such as sourdough doughnuts or chocolate hearts. Or you can order the Discombobulating items – where Giapo has gone international, involving gelato versions of Canadian poutine, Italian arancina, Japanese gyoza and Indian pani puri.
Without a doubt, the most spectacular item on the menu is the Colossal Squid. Even though the tentacles in this enormous chocolate creation are hollow, I doubted I could do it justice. Especially within two hours of a meal. Best shared between two (or more) people.
My friendly server offered some samples before I made my choice. The Intense Matcha Oolong would definitely appeal to green tea fans. The dark chocolate from the Chocolate Obsession was decadently rich. I swooned over the Satsuma Mandarin and Capsicum sorbetti – absolutely gorgeous, however the friendly server advised that it can be rather overwhelming in a large serve. Since it was my first visit, I decided to play it safe and ordered a Kiss Kiss Kiss.
My chosen base was Giapo’s regular waffle cone, which is coated on the inside with milk chocolate. The gelato was Christchurch hazelnut (supporting local produce!). This was encased in dark and milk Dominican chocolate. Huge dark chocolate lips were attached, as well as a constellation of candied hazelnuts.
It’s a substantial serving… and tasted amazing. Very intense chocolate, but with the added lightness from the hazelnut.
Rose ordered what she described as her usual: Giapo Buono. One of Giapo’s most popular items, this is salted caramel gelato, coated with hazelnut praline and crushed amaretti. Then topped with a swirl of Italian meringue and whole bronzed hazelnuts, and caramelised by blowtorch. She opted for one of the regular waffle cones.
Giapo is definitely an extra special indulgence – it is not an everyday gelato, and the prices reflect that. But if you are after a real splurge, it certainly delivers. And next time, I will be ordering the Satsuma Mandarin and Capsicum sorbetti.
12 Gore Street
T: +64 9 550 3677