As I was leaving the homestay at Fort Kochi, I casually remarked to Julie, the homestay owner, about Milano, a shop that sells gelato on MG road. “Is it by the Italian couple?” asked Julie. I smiled and said yes taking in the fact that Milano is now gaining popularity among the ‘not-so-fond-of-Ice cream’ people too.
Having been visiting Milano almost every weekend in the last three months, I was no longer content with just trying out flavors based on suggestions over the counter. I was curious to know who, what, how, the full story behind the making of these heavenly gelatos. In a reply to my strange request to the people at Milano, I was asked to meet them the following day.
On reaching the shop, Sarah who was busy helping Carlo, her husband, looked up and greeted me with a big smile. With a cup of Italian coffee topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for me and espresso for Sarah, we began talking about gelato, in Sarah’s words – the real ice cream.
Italian by birth, Carlo lived in Germany for many years before moving to India. His ancestors have been involved in the making of original, mouth-watering gelato for more than 35 years. “Even today customers in Germany wait in long queues to buy gelato from their shop,” shared Sarah. On the other hand, Sarah runs her own company that involves procuring raw materials from suppliers in India.
During one such meeting in Italy with her Indian suppliers, she introduced them to gelato. “On tasting it my supplier friend said, ‘If you start this business in India, I would like to be a partner’. And I said, we are not even thinking about it!” She explained, on how the idea dawned. Though Sarah and Carlo were not convinced, few months later they decided to take the plunge.
In May 2012, the couple visited India. Of the many cities, Kochi was finalized. Within a month, a small narrow place was zeroed in on MG road. Carlo, who was then working in the solar power business quit his job and dedicated himself completely to the task of introducing gelato to Kochiites.
Following few months of turmoil, the shop was opened on 21 December, 2012. It was not until February 14, 2013 though that people took notice. “People suddenly started pouring in one day, we were not prepared. We had to start making gelato in mid-night,” recalled Sarah.
She proudly shared that all recipes are fifty years old, original, tried and tested. Yet, when only two out of ten flavors got sold at the end of the day in the past months, they began experimenting. “Today flavors are adapted as per the raw materials available in India. But some materials need to be of the best quality and are procured from different parts of the world like Hazelnut, Mint and Pista from Italy, Belgium dark chocolate from Belgium,” she explained.
Talking about her customers, Sarah confessed that Kochiites are critics who tell whether they like a flavor or not without reservations and added, that it is exactly what helped them understand customer expectations.
Amidst her excitement to narrate the journey, she did not forget to emphasize on what gelato is all about – Less fat, no butter, no vegetable oils, homemade, freshly prepared everyday, whereas industrial ice creams are prepared months in advance, deep frozen with too much air. Sarah strongly feels the secret of gelato is in the freshness. She also took me to see the making of fresh Italian butterscotch sweet and salt gelato, which by the way got displayed and was ready to be served as I was leaving Milano.
Not just gelato, Milano Ice cream also serves ice cream cakes which you can try. With the option of relishing one to three flavors in a single cup, I am definitely going back for more!
Shop location: Near Ravipuram junction, MG Road, Kochi.