Oct. 20, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

New Spot Brings the Flavor of Gelato to the Hill

At Pitango in Eastern Market, Former Software Executive Tries to Re-Create Taste of Childhood

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Pitango, which sells gelato made the old-fashioned way with real eggs and milk in Penn Quarter, is opening a new branch in Eastern Market next week.

Noah Dan grew up in Israel but spent every summer with family in Italy, visiting the same gelateria all summer long: Zampoli’s.

Zampoli’s used real eggs and milk to make gelato the old-fashioned way. As Dan described it, the product there was “the real McCoy,” gelato done right.

But for every gelateria that does it right, there are hundreds of others that skimp on the proper ingredients or tweak the 100-year-old recipe the wrong way.

The matriarch of Dan’s family, his aunt, often complained that few gelato shops offered the classic taste she loved. So for her 80th birthday, Dan and his cousin looked up the traditional recipe and whipped up a batch of crema, one of the simplest flavors — a basic gelato made with eggs and milk.

Dan’s aunt wasn’t quite fooled. She knew something was different about this gelato. But the subtle difference didn’t change the fact that this was Zampoli-quality gelato.

“Did Zampoli’s change management?” Dan remembers her asking.

This quality gelato is what he strives to serve at both of his current Pitango shops and what he plans to offer at his new branch in Eastern Market, opening next week. The new shop will sell all of Dan’s 20 flavors, each one crafted with fresh ingredients, many of which come from local farms in Pennsylvania.

Dan said his shop is different in that he aims to make gelato the old-fashioned way, and so few gelaterias — in both the U.S. and Italy — use the traditional process.

“Today, almost nobody does it from scratch because of the cost of the flavor, the cost of rent, there’s no space,” he said.

The difficulty behind creating real gelato means that those gelaterias that do exist in America often don’t produce a high-quality product, according to Dan.

“[Workers at those shops] go for three days’ training at the Gelato University, and they teach you how to use all those products in cans and how to mix them, so the gelato that’s made its way to America is a bag full of tricks,” he said.

“In the States, you can call a ham sandwich gelato.”

Dan keeps his operation simple. Because of health codes that prohibit using the unpasteurized ingredients he needs for his recipe in his shop, he makes the mix for all of his gelatos on a Mennonite farm in Pennsylvania, where the owner’s 11 children help with the operation. And because he buys the majority of his fruits locally at nearby farms, Dan spends days looking for the perfect ingredients — those just-right raspberries, the proper milk.

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