Icy Kisses from Italy
Bacio di Roma gives the lips a cold, tasty treat
By Kendra R. ChamberlainPosted Jul 13, 2011
Bacio Di Roma, is Baton Rouge’s newest gelateria, located at 128 W. Chimes St. The shop, whose name means “Kiss from Rome” in Italian, opened earlier this month to offer a unique combination of old world Italy and 21st century America.
“I will bring a little bit of my country here,” owner Simone Romano explained over a cappuccino last week, in a thick Italian accent.
Romano moved to Baton Rouge from Rome, Italy about two years ago. Gelato has been Romano’s mistress his whole life.
“My mother loved gelato. When she was pregnant with me, she ate four or five gelato everyday. It’s really in my blood,” Romano said.
He first began making gelato when he was 15 years old. By 23, he opened up his first gelateria in St. Peter’s Square. Then, he was named the best gelaterie in Rome by the prestigious food magazine, Gambero Rosso.
Gelato is not a foodie obsession for Romano, but instead an artistic passion.
“I like to make gelato, but not to eat it,” he said.
Elizabeth Stander, who has worked closely with Romano in concepting the shop, agreed.
“He actually loves the art of it,” she said in a phone interview last week. “The first shop he worked for was a very old-style shop, where they make gelato the real way. It’s a very intensive process. It requires a level of expertise on his part.”
“He has to be in the kitchen 8-10 hours. He literally makes the gelato all himself. It’s something he has been developing for twenty years.”
Romano admitted that he spends long nights in the kitchen preparing batches of gelato that will be sold the next day.
“When you make something with passion, nothing is too much,” Romano said.
The gelato-making process is part chemistry, part intuition, and all dedication. The treat is not frozen, and in fact there is no ice involved, whatsoever. Instead, it is a precise balance of sugar, milk, fat, and flavor, churned together for hours. Gelato can only be made in small batches, and doesn’t keep well beyond a few days. And freezing it? No way. The gelato will lose its characteristic intense flavor immediately.
The care and patience Romano puts into his work can literally be tasted.
“Some gelato will leave an aftertaste on your palate,” Stander said. “But his is very clean. I love the mint chocolate chip, and the dark cherry with the fresh yogurt. Wow.”
The shop itself is quite impressive in its unusual concept. The interior is clean and modern, a far cry from what the old inside looked like.
“We’ve redesigned the interior. It was very groovy, but it didn’t have a flow for what we needed. The back is going to be a multi-media space. It’s not finished yet,” Stander explained. The space will include two TVs and an X-Box 360. Stander said they’re planning on hosting gamer nights – “So the gamers can get out of the cave,” she joked.
Bacio Di Roma had what’s called a “soft launch,” meaning that they’ve opened their doors as a work in progress. They’re selling gelato and espresso drinks now, but the menu will expand later in the fall, and then again in the spring of next year. Stander said the two see Bacio Di Roma as being a hub of community activity, a place to eat, drink, relax, study, and even learn a little something about Italy and gelato.
“Rome is very community minded, very interactive,” Stander said. “They have a lot of romance and friendship, and they’re a little louder. And melting it with Baton Rouge, well we’re a lot the same.”
Gelato v. Ice Cream
Gelato, meaning “frozen” in Italian, was invented in the 17th Century. It is often described as “Italian ice cream,” – but according to Romano, that’s not quite right.
“Ice cream is the bad copy of gelato,” Romano said. Gelato has a much lower fat content than ice cream, and fewer calories. It also has a higher protein content, less carbohydrates, and less sodium. Basically, it’s the healthiest a cool, creamy, sweet treat can get. Sorbetto, which contains no dairy, is gelato made with only fresh fruit and juices.
Bacio Di Roma is located at 128 W. Chimes St. Opened Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Visit them on Facebook at www.FaceBook.com/BacioDiRoma.