3: Best Gelato Factory in Orange County

A Film by Ken Widmann

Photo by Jack Gould[Blank screen. White letters in a Gothic font read, "The Old World." Fade to black. Camera pans Renais sance triptych of Italian craftsmen assembled around primitive snow-cone machine.] NARRATOR DAVID McCULLOGH: Beginning in the 16th century, Italian dairymen hand-churned salt and ice to produce a refreshing concoction known as gelato. Later generations perfected the recipe. [Slow pan of wrinkled daguerreotype, bottom to top. Screen reveals the work boots, ethnic attire and wooden pushcart of a 19th-century Italian gelato peddler. In the background, the Forum's stone façade rises above a bustling Roman street. Crowd noises.] McCULLOGH: Long before it was supplanted by the metronomic precision of railroads under the fascists, creating the finest gelato swelled the Italian bosom with nationalist pride. Often directed to ill uses, this patriotic fervor fueled civil wars and two world wars. Continued bloodshed and famine on European soil engendered massive trans-Atlantic migrations. As Italians flocked to the Americas, the arcane skill of gelato-making went with them. [Camera pans naturalization documents from Ellis Island. Slow pan of a black-and-white photograph of the Statue of Liberty; a small cup of melting gelato appears where the golden torch should be.] McCULLOGH: Although the influx of outsiders added texture to America's complex cultural tapestry, all did not welcome them with open arms. [Cut to full-color interview with retired industrial worker. He has a grizzled face, and he is reclining on a living-room couch, fulminating.] RETIREE: I like Italian food as much as the next fella, but I am an America First isolationist when it comes to ice cream. These Eye-talians with their fancy Jell-O or giotto or whatever. Christ. If I want my ice cream all soft and soupy, I'll put it in the oven. Hey, you ever had that green tea nonsense they serve in Chinese joints? Pure ice milk. [Cut to rippling American flag.] McCULLOGH: Reactions like this fueled xenophobic measures like the National Frozen Dairy Product Origins Act of 1924, which attempted to halt the importation and distribution of ice cream developed by so-called "lesser races." As a result, many of our greatest gelato artisans were forced into hiding or changed their products to appear more American. Sales of red, white and blue ice pops peaked. During the Red scares of the 1920s and 1950s, Con gress banned un-American foods like Italian ices, French vanilla and Eskimo pies. These were dark times for our nation's gelato producers. [Blank screen. White letters in a modern font read, "The New World." Fade to black. Fade in on nondescript business park. Cut to even-less-descriptive front door of the Gelato Factory.] McCULLOGH: Thanks to today's more open, global society, gelato craftspeople no longer have to hide. Yet some still prefer to keep a low profile. Which may explain why many believe the finest gelato in America is produced right here in Orange County at the Gelato Factoryin Garden Grove. We were recently given a factory tour by a Gelato Factory operative. Due to the sensitive nature of the material, our host would consent to appear on camera only if we scrambled his face and voice. [Cut to scene inside the small white mixing room of the Gelato Factory. There's the whirring of machinery as hair-netted technicians maneuver in the background. In the foreground is a paunchy tour guide, his face distorted by video effects, his metallically altered voice shouting above the machinery.] UNIDENTIFIED GUIDE: We make the best gelato in Orange County in this room right here. Why is ours the best? Four reasons. No. 1, except for the local fresh fruit, all of our 67 flavorings are imported straight from Italy. The machinery, too. It all comes from Italy, where gelato was born. No. 2, some don't realize that gelato must age at least four to six hours for its true texture and taste to form. Ours is homogenized and pasteurized in such a way as to allow for proper aging. You might have fresh gelato right out of the mixer, but it won't be as good as ours. True believers know gelato is ideal the next day, served at exactly 2 degrees above freezing. No. 3, we use only natural ingredients. Look at this can of blackberry flavoring. [He leads the camera into a small adjoining room. Posters of gelato-based desserts adorn the wall. The guide waves a large can labeled "Blackberry" at the camera and then points toward its list of ingredients.] UNIDENTIFIED GUIDE: See what it says here? "Guar gum." That's a natural stabilizer. If you make ice cream at home, they tell you to use gelatin. We only use natural guar gum from the guar plant to thicken our gelato. And No. 4, Italian law specifies gelato can't have greater than 8.5 percent fat. Most American gelato has 10 percent fat. And American ice cream is unbelievable: 15 percent to 25 percent fat. [Pauses.] Uh-oh. I think you should leave now. [Camera is abruptly cut off. Blank screen, then test pattern. McCULLOGH returns, strolling outside the Gelato Factory, furiously spooning gelato in his mouth. He notices active camera and speaks between gulps.] McCULLOGH: With that inadvertent disclosure regarding American ice cream, our informant cut off all further conversation. We can tell you that the Gelato Factory creates spumoni and custom gelato cakes for high-end LA and Orange County restaurants like Ciao Trattoria. They also produce pints of luscious gelato and heavenly sorbet for upscale markets like Gelson's. Unfor tunately, since they have no stores, one cannot simply stroll up and order a cup of Gelato Factory stracciatella. Their first retail location is scheduled to open in Aliso Viejo in early December, but if you can't wait, try showing up at the factory and asking for a tour. Tell them you're writing an article for the Weekly's Best of OC issue and you must sample their elite gelato. It worked for me! [With smug wink from McCULLOGH, the screen fades to black.Fin.] The festivities continue...

 
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