Italian Gelato in Dubai – Is It Just a Mirage?

Alec and Ambra often wonder, “can one find a good gelato outside of Italy?” Their search for a “yes” continues in Dubai.

By Alec Torelli

We often wonder, “can one find a good gelato outside of Italy?” Our search for a “yes” continues in Dubai, one of the few cities outside of Italy who offers a course held by Carpigiani’s University of Gelato in Bologna.

Our first encounter – after spotting a couple of camels walking nonchalantly on the beach – is on the corner of the busy, touristy walkway of JBR.

On a corner, a sign reading “Cone Street. Gelato Italiano” boasts authenticity. Will the ice cream live up to its claim?

The ‘Amerena‘, a cherry flavor, is overly sour and not creamy enough. Packaged chunks of chocolate atop provide little aid. The Yogurt is boring. The “Italian Amaretto” tastes like… nothing.

They say the place is managed daily by Italians and they only use Italian ingredients. We would never have known. We savor every bite slowly, attentively, determined to give it a second chance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t improve and we abandon our Cone Street on the street.

The next afternoon we are taunted by a stand inside the infamous Dubai Mall. “Morelli’s Gelato” brags about a century of history. It began when an Italian immigrant moved to UK and started selling ice cream on his bicycle. Since then, Morellis has opened ice cream parlous in London, Monaco, Dallas, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Dammam and Dubai.

Despite a well presented, flashy display, we are hesitant to try. We’ve made this mistake before so this time we inquire about production. “How is the gelato made?” The lady informs us that they have a designated gelato maker, a Filipino who has been trained by a specialist from Italy, begins preparing it at midnight in order to be ready by 8:00 a.m. The staff is kind, knowledgable and friendly. Their gelato captures our interest.

The Apple Pie flavor looks enticing. Their Pistachio is covered in an expensive creme only bought in specialty stores. An assortment of sorbettos is appealing. We sample them all. The Apple Pie lacks spice, substance, those chunks of cake that would give it some excitement. The pistachio isn’t thick enough and its taste is far away from the intensity of the real nut. The sorbets aren’t juicy, richly loaded with fruit as they should be. Are they still satisfactory? Sure. Our biggest disappointment? We gave ourselfves false hope.

At “Il Gelato di Bruno“, another shop on the bottom floor, the employee claims that “the ingredients, all of them, are imported weekly from Italy, and they have a native Italian who commutes regularly to oversee operations.” One would expect the gelato to be near perfect. It wasn’t.

I regret to conclude that no replication can mimic the original. So far, every one I have tried – and there has been many – have fallen short. With failed attempts in Zurich, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando, New York, Macau, Paris, and now Dubai, my question has changed from “is it possible” to “why it cannot?”

In rudimentary math, we are taught that ‘a whole equals the sum of its parts.’ Dubai, like many others, has all the parts: a high quality product, fresh ingredients, a hand made gelato, even an Italian guru. Still, it is not enough. The artisan’s touch could not be duplicated.

My experience in Dubai reminded me of something I was told at the recent 2012 Gelato Festival in Florence.

When I asked Gabriele Poli, the Festival’s founder about his favorite gelateria outside of Italy, he was dumbfounded. “Mmmmhhh… I don’t eat gelato outside of Italy.”

The answer, it seemed, should have been obvious. At the question: “What is gelato?”, Achille Sassoli, the Event Director of Carpigiani Gelato University, answered “Italiano“.

Perhaps he is right.

CONE STREET, JBR, Rimal Sector, Plaza Level, Dubai – BRUNETTI’S GELATO and IL GELATO DI BRUNO, Dubai Mall, UAE

Alec Torelli

It all started when he was 10. He was distraught about moving, but the man next door welcomed him with a huge styrofoam box of ice cream. Fourteen years later, he moved to Italy and fell in love with gelato, which inspired his first writings about food. Since then, his passion for culinary art has done nothing but grow. On a mission to find the world's best gelato, he travels, eats and writes for Still Served Warm.

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6 Comments
  1. Mate,
    I’ve lived in Dubai for 2 years now and I’m still struggling with gelato. Nothing tastes decent to me.

    No real Italian company nor authentic, organic, Italian ingredients whatsoever.

    I truly hope the guys at GROM’s decide to take their call down here. http://www.grom.it/eng/index.php

  2. Gabriele Poli was right – why go looking for gelato outside of Italy? Go local instead. Arab ice cream (called booza and made with mastic) is fantastic. That’s what you should be sampling in the Middle East.

  3. I just tried Vasa Vasa gelateria in Abu Dhabi – Al Muneera – Al Raha beach area and I truly have to say that not even in Italy i tried a gelato like that. They are Italian and they have flavors like cassata, vaniglia or stracciatella that just taste amazing. They also serve coffe and cannoli:) A must try….after 5 years living here we ve finally found our little italian oasi:):)

  4. Please I will like to know if you organise 5 days gelato courses at dubai, united Arab Emirates. I will be in dubai by first week of September and I will like to have a gelato course with you. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks

  5. Hi
    I was really pleased to read your article
    Mt partner Albino and I have been making the best authentic gelato outside of Italy.
    I would like to send you some links about us and articles written and of course if you are in London soon we would like you to try it!!! The proof being in the seeing and tasting
    Best Regards
    Kim
    albaGold Ltd
    We are still one of LOndon’s best kept secrets!!! So you probably will not have heard of us!

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