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[whitespace] Massimo Caporale Cool Stuff: Massimo Caporale of Gelato Paradiso prepares some of his creamy chocolate gelato.

Photograph by George Sakkestad

A Bite of Heaven

Gelato Paradiso is the real thing

By Christina Waters

MASSIMO CAPORALE left his native town on Italy's Lake Como two years ago to make his gelato fortune in California. And he's well on his way, with Gelato Paradiso accounts in such major Bay Area restaurants as Kuleto's, Dal Baffo and Sent Sovi. From his Watsonville manufacturing site, Caporale explains that he came to California several years ago and found "no real gelato here--only ice cream that people called gelato." So he worked to correct that perception, importing equipment and flavors from Italy and applying for licenses.

Caporale's personal dream is to open a small gelato shop when the right location presents itself. He makes 86 flavors and says he loves them all. You can find this wonderful stuff locally at Staff of Life, Deluxe and Zanotto's. The incredible Fiore di Panna (cream) flavor is smooth, tight-textured and not too sweet, and sports a fraction of the calories of mass-produced brands. I did some math for you: Häagen-Dazs Honey Almond ice cream runs 250 calories per half-cup serving, including 10 grams of fat. Gelato Paradiso Fiore di Panna gelato has 120 calories per serving, with only 4 grams. The price is roughly the same for each.

According to Caporale, the difference between gelato and ice cream is that gelato is made of only fresh whole milk, cream, sugar and a tiny bit of stabilizer. The fat content cannot be more than 10 percent, and it contains 50 percent less air than ice cream, accounting for the dense texture. No chemicals or preservatives are to be found in these gelati.

Don't miss the rum raisin and tiramisu flavors! Let me add that one of the finest things I've ever tasted is Gelato Paradiso's Italian sorbet, especially the Fragola (strawberry). At a mere 90 calories per half-cup serving and zero fat, it has killer mouth feel and a brilliant burst of true berry flavor. You can experience these lovely frozen Italian desserts at a few local restaurants as well, including Bella Napoli in Santa Cruz, Il Pirata in Capitola, Sanderlings in Seascape and La Bruscatta in Felton. For more creamy details, call Gelato Paradiso at 761.3198.

Brewpub and Recession Busters

The Turgeon family has returned full time to the winemaking business, and now Santa Cruz Brewing Company is owned by Steve Carniglia and John Rebelo of Big Trees Brewing Co. Steve told me last week that the new, refreshed brewpub combines aspects of both Carniglia's (look for a sophisticated new menu as well as plenty of pub-food goodies) and Big Trees Brewing, including the tart Big Trees Pilsner. But many of your old favorites, including the Lighthouse Amber, will stay on the menu of downtown Santa Cruz's first brewery restaurant. Stay tuned for more details about the new menu and expanded line of handmade beers. The Santa Cruz Brewing Co. is located at 516 Front St., Santa Cruz (429.8838).

Proprietor Elizabeth Vinolus emailed to tell me about some recession-fighting specials at Rio del Mar's Bittersweet Bistro this spring. On Mondays, check out the two-for-one appetizers and special selections of half-price wines. Tuesdays feature a new three-course prix fixe dinner for $29. On Sundays, youngsters 10 and under dine half-off the "Kids' Menu." Bittersweet is open daily for Bistro happy hour and late lunch between 3 and 6pm, with dinner nightly from 5:30pm and Sunday brunch from 10am to 2pm. Bittersweet Bistro is located in the old Deer Park Tavern, 787 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Rio Del Mar. (662.9799)

Email me your hot food tips, new favorite restaurants, discoveries, gripes and sudden culinary insights. You tell me--I'll tell everybody: [email protected]

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From the May 9-16, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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