This past weekend, I had the distinguished honor of doing something really special that involved one of my culinary loves, gelato. Cordially invited to tour and make gelato at Fabbri of North America, an Italian gelato ingredient supplier with an American branch located right here in Maspeth Queens, I was intrigued and excited about the prospect. Accompanied by my mom and my brother's girlfriend Fiana, we indulged in a delicious afternoon filled with delectable treats, as well as the company of the most passionate of teachers.
Founded in 1905, the Fabbri family have been in the specialty foods business for over 105 years. Impressed by its longevity, I was by no means surprised to find out about Fabbri's quality products including their signature trademark, amarena cherries, floating in a sea of deeply rich sweet syrup.
But aside from liqueur-flavored fruit, Fabbri's product arsenal is fully stocked with every kind of ingredient you'd ever need for making a flavorful, artisan gelato. From neutral bases that help enrich a gelato's texture to almost 60 different pastes that bring out each flavor's uniqueness, Fabbri's products are tapped by both large-scale distributors and small, more personalized producers.
As hinted above, Fabbri's North American division is located in Queens. "What an amazing gem to add to our already culinarily vibrant borough," I thought. Its location is pretty discreet, situated in a residential neighborhood in Maspeth, well hidden by other industrial buildings in the vicinity. Actually, I think it's what makes Fabbri so special - a well-kept secret that I hope stays just between us friends.
The Fabbri experience was no doubt made wonderful by our knowledgeable and enthusiastic teachers, Bob and Michelle. Bob, Fabbri's co-owner is the ambassador for gelato, specialty foods and really food in general. Just chat with him for a few seconds and you'll quickly see that he knows everything there is to know about good food in Queens, Manhattan and overseas.
Michelle, who's a gelato extraordinaire of her own is a Fabbri employee for half the year. For the other half, she's the proud owner of a specialty gelato shop in Provincetown, Massachusetts called I Dream of Gelato. There, she cranks out exorbitant amounts of gelato to hungry vacationers, students and Cape Cod residents. During the winter months, she comes to Fabbri to experiment and create new flavors - a much needed preparation for the busy summer season.
The Gelato-Making Experience:
During our experience, we made a traditional gelato and a sorbet. Our efforts were closely supervised by Bob and Michelle, and with their help, we learned about the ingredients and the processes that go into making these sweet treats. The basic ingredients consist of milk, a little bit of cream, lots of sugar and Fabbri's products such as classic gelato and sorbet bases and flavoring pastes.
First we made the sorbet, which used water instead of the aforementioned milk, thus making it a much lighter dessert. We mixed all the ingredients together with an industrial sized immersion blender, which was a definite workout for the biceps. After everything was fully incorporated, we poured it into an industrial sized machine that formed it into a thick-creamy consistency. The three of us took turns working with the ingredients, and in the end it was me who was quickly scooping the freshly made sorbet into a large tray - not unlike what you'd do in a real gelateria.
In terms of the gelato, we made a classic Nocciola (hazelnut), which included milk and cream in place of water and a Fabbri Nocciola deli paste, made of toasted hazelnuts. The mixture smelled so divine even before completed, that we had to try it several times before putting it into the machine to solidify.
After our finished products came out of the freezer, we were free to taste them. Wowza - were they delicious! The lemon sorbet was light and fresh and absolutely what I'd like to have after any hearty meal. I can also see it being a nice palate cleanser between courses.
The nocciola was something else entirely and definitely more up my alley. It was thick, delicious and so intensely flavored that I couldn't get enough. While I've seen some nocciolas incorporate add-ons such as chocolate syrup or nuts, Fabbri's version didn't need it at all. It was perfect, uncomplicated and refreshing - just like a good gelato should be.
Additionally to hazelnut and lemon, we also tasted flavors such as dark chocolate, cappuccino, passion fruit, mango, vanilla rum raisin and yogurt. They were all excellent in their own way but I had a strong preference for the dark chocolate, which was more custardy than the others--and to top that off, it was also gluten free.
If you're further intrigued about Fabbri's products and where to find them (they distribute in Queens!), you can contact them at the info below. Thank you Fabbri for making our weekend so sweet!
Fabbri of North America - 57-01 49th Place, Maspeth NY 11378
718.764.8311 Extension 114