FRUITS OF THE SEASON
Philadelphia City Paper - December 11th, 2003
Stephanie Reitano of Capogiro has learned, through Italians - including her husband, John, and his family - and her own quick-study dedication, the art of making first-class gelato and sorbetto, Italian interpretations of ice cream and sorbet. Though she uses ingredients from outside the Northeast (mangoes, blood oranges, Saigon cinnamon) for some of her flavors, her enthusiasm for, and commitment to, Pennsylvania and New Jersey ingredients is obvious.

Reitano dreamily describes the earthy taste and slight bitterness of black walnuts. She purchases shelled hickory nuts from a Pennsylvania purveyor and pounds them into a paste to make one of her richer flavors. Fruit that doesn't possess vine-ripe flavor or natural, dramatic color gets rejected; milk comes from a Lancaster farmer and his grass-fed, hormone-free cows.

The flavors she picks, even within seasons, change according to what she deems most exceptional. She is currently putting to use sweet potatoes, pumpkin, pears, heirloom apples and quince, in addition to tropical fruits and other year-round ingredients.
A gelato or sorbetto takes only seven to 10 minutes to come together once in the machine Capogiro imported from Italy, but assembling, peeling, seeding chopping, cooking and otherwise prepping the ingredients takes hours.
Reitano says everything in the store is made every day (very few can be used the next day by mixing them with fresh batches). On a recent overcast day, Reitano has started her Chestnut gelato, but says "it won't be ready for three days."

She has cooked a batch of chestnuts slightly; over the course of the next few days she'll let the nuts soak in sugar, water, spices and vanilla beans in a heat-up/cool-down process that will leave the "fruit" very tender and translucent. In a separate process, she'll cook chestnuts until they fall apart; then she'll create a milk and chestnut paste with them. The paste and the "candied" chestnuts will be blended into the final gelato.

The flavors at Capogiro are a surprise, particularly for those accustomed to commercial ice cream. The hickory nut gelato, though rich and buttery, taste like a truer, cleaner, lighter butter pecan ice cream. (Pecans come from a variety of hickory tree.) "Pear wild turkey" sorbetto has a creamy color, a fresh, almost overwhelming pear taste and a slight tang from the whisky. Pumpkin gelato is rich and deep-flavored, with some spice and seemingly none of the fatty ingredients of your favorite pie. The "baked apple" has a buttery bakedness that sneaks up on you in the finish. "Clean" is the word that keeps coming to mind, and Reitano says that's right.

She explains that in addition to the ingredients, there are three reasons the flavors of her gelato are so spectacular when compared to ice cream, reasons that describe what makes any good gelato a taste experience. There is less fat in gelato, which means there is less far to coat te tongue and interfere with the main flavors; gelato is kept at a higher temperature than ice cream, which releases more flavor; and it has a greater density than most ice cream. Capogiro's product has air whipping into it at a proportion of only 20 percent, sometimes less; ice-cream can be 50 percent air.

- Jenn Carbin
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