Some people have all the luck -- they either work for a bakery, for a candy store, or in the case of Noah Dan, for an ice cream business. Founder of Pitango Gelato, Dan freely chats about his teenaged summers in Trieste, Italy, with his Italian grandparents. "It was obligatory to eat gelato one or two times a day," he explained. "There were many stores, but only one was the real place. In the old days, it was all from scratch with a secret recipe and hard work."
Recalling those delicious summer days, Dan says that the owner of this particular gelato shop used the milk from his own cows, the eggs from his own hens and the fruits from his own garden. "Other places would buy ready-made [mixes]," he said.
Understanding that creating real, from-scratch gelato was really not so difficult, Dan set about making an authentic product in the United States, as delicious as those gelati from Italy. His determination was inspired, in part, by his great patriarchal aunt, who always insisted on having gelato for dinner.
|If you go|
|» Where: 413 Seventh Street NW|
|» Info: 202-885-9607|
|» Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to midnight Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday|
To celebrate her 85th birthday, Dan asked a friend with a laboratorio to make the basic gelato, known as crema, from scratch. "I picked up the eggs and the milk," he said, "and when I tasted it, I knew she was right. You can't replace the basic ingredients with powders."
However, when the former technology entrepreneur set out to launch Pitango Gelato in 2006, he encountered more than a few hurdles. Rather than sourcing milk that was already pasteurized -- which is the norm in the ice cream business -- Dan wanted to use raw milk in his recipes to recreate the authentic taste. "Most dairy farmers," he said, " don't think about the taste of milk. I tried to make the gelato here with regular milk, but that didn't work. So I thought of raw milk, but I couldn't get it."
Determined to have the best product money could buy, Dan connected with a Pennsylvania farm that produces organic milk from a single, grass-fed herd and built his own dairy on the premises. He also went to extremes sourcing other ingredients -- including imported nuts and chocolates and fresh-picked local fruit -- to create a product that is honest, pure and free of processed foods, or colorings or flavorings of any kind. As it turns out, the mixes are made at the farm, flash-frozen, and then shipped to the retail outlets. "I send the frozen mix to each store," he says, "and each store makes it own gelato to avoid ice crystals. It's then frozen at 10 degrees."
Pitango produces more than 40 flavors of gelato and sorbet -- 20 of which are served at each shop. Flavors include Italian classics such as hazelnut, caffe espresso and pistachio as well as a host of fat-free, vegan sorbets.
What is your comfort food?
Chicken soup, and it is so simple
What's in your fridge?
Parmigiano, the real McCoy. Lemons and milk.
Which is your favorite restaurant?
Tosca; it's service is like a well-oiled machine. But the truth is we eat at home. The kids love to cook, and it is a lot of fun.
Which is your favorite ingredient?
Depends on the season. It's lot of fun to grow your own tomatoes, rhubarb and apricots.
What is your luckiest moment?
I guess when I met my wife. I was working in an office in Curacao. She walked in to interview my partner, and for a long time, it was a long-distance relationship.