Discovering Vetulio Bondi. President of the Gelato Artisans of Florence, and recently awarded 2 Cones by Gambero Rosso. When the Florentine summer season opened we went to visit Bondi in his bottega in the centre of Florence. He shared with us a few little secrets about his art.
Vetulio Bondi, from Florence to New York and back to Florence. You are the Master Gelato Maker who introduced gold to gelato. Do you remember how and when you discovered edible gold?
In 1982 when I went to eat at Gualtiero Marchesi’s restaurant. This idea of edible gold stuck in my head for many years, along with the fact that I had to go to restaurants of a certain calibre to try it. Then in 2011 I did a Fuori di Taste in Florence at Richard Ginori and I wanted to mix the birth of gelato in Florence with the theme of porcelain, which was true white gold in the 1700s in Florence. This challenge prompted the idea of using the Florentine gold made by the Manetti family to comingle these two celebrations.
A revolution for the world of gelato?
Yes, absolutely! Not only for gelato, but also for edible gold itself. By taking it out of restaurant setting I made it a pop item for all intents and purposes.
And why did you select Gold Chef by Giusto Manetti Battiloro gold and silver products?
Because they are made in Florence, they have a unique quality, and above all because they are different from simple edible gold. Gold Chef products are truly a food product. They are made in special departments and they follow all of the most stringent regulations for food production. And, finally, because my friends the Manettis make them (he laughs, ed.)
In what gelato flavours do you prefer to use gold, and why?
By creating black ice cream, I wanted to show that ice cream is not eaten with the eyes first. Adding edible gold to it turned into a perfect narrative oxymoron: black ice cream is ugly to look at but it tastes good. Vice versa, gold is beautiful to look at but has no taste. I find that it is a way to make people think about the stereotypes of our society … a society that too often judges by appearance.
You’ve also recently brought edible silver to the world of gelato.
There too I wanted to create a narrative oxymoron. I created a gelato with Szechuan berries and edible silver. Szechuan berries are very often mistaken for pepper, and they have a metallic taste. While silver looks like it might taste metallic but is actually tasteless. Basically, nothing is as it seems. Appearances are deceiving.
Are there any factors that affect the use of gold and silver in your creations?
Edible gold and edible silver will shatter into tiny pieces if they are added to a machine. Visually they are almost lost in the final product. That’s why I only recommend using gold and silver in the final garnish stage like I do. It also makes for pure entertainment, creating enthusiasm and exalting the ritual of gelato.
Lately we have been hearing more and more about healthy and sustainable gelato. Is this the new trend?
I became sustainable in 1991, when I created a circuit in my machinery that uses the same cooling water for several units, thus generating the lowest possible impact. Obviously this is not enough, there are many things to be done, and we all must contribute in our small way. For example, I select only the highest quality raw materials from the producers closest to me. Yet I look at the statistics of my gelateria in Florence, and I see that the best-selling flavours are mango and pineapple, which are obviously not produced in Italy. So there has to be a trade-off between what you can do and what you have to do in your own business.
You are President of the Gelato Artisans of Florence, the home of ice cream: burden or honour at this historic moment?
It’s an honour because we’re on a very important journey with various Florentine businesses and industry associations. We’d like to make Florentine gelato a Unesco heritage product. And if they won’t nominate Florentine gelato, we’ll try Florentine gelato with Florentine gold on top (laughs, ed.).
Photo Credit: © Gianni Ugolini