Staccato Gelato

232 NE 28th and Burnside


Staccato Gelato would like to introduce you to something silky, cold, and fun to say: gelato. With the recent opening of what could be Portland's only dedicated purveyor of handmade gelato and sorbeto, two sisters have followed through on a wacky dream.

"We wanted a gelato tricycle for the summer. We came up with the name Freezee Rider," laughs Sarah Holliday, co-owner. "It grew pretty fast from that idea."

"Pregnancy cravings," blurts Jessica Holliday over her sister, as she delivers chocolate scoops to a sundae bowl. "When I was pregnant, the only thing I craved was gelato. It's a powerful force!"

Portland has no shortage of coffee shops. Pizza pads dot all quadrants. There are just a few ice cream parlors, though... and not a real gelato monger in the bunch.

"I lived in Australia, and gelato is so popular there," says Sarah. "If you wanted an alternative to a noisy, smoky bar, you went for gelato, even late night. When I moved to Portland, I was surprised to see it wasn't even on the radar."

The Hollidays will change that, they hope, with their tempting product. The gelato (milk-base) and sorbeto (no dairy) come in familiar flavors: chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla (or "crema"), and uncommon ones like zuppa inglese. The texture, though, is otherworldly. Like DQ soft-serve's upper class cousins, gelato and sorbeto have a trademark velvety character. At Staccato, try a scoop of banana gelato ($2.00) for the finest example of this. The chocolate-hazelnut retains the semi-sweet taste of good cocoa, with an undercurrent of toasted nuts. The torrone flavor captures the essence of the chewy Italian nougat candies. Three bucks gets you three scoops, perfect for a trio of sorbeto: Mango, strawberry, and an intense Bosc pear that jumps on your tongue. These are clean fruit flavors, unlike the DuPont chemical notes of Starburst fruit-chews or a gallon tub of syrupy discount sherbert.

For something truly different, at least to the gelato uninitiated, go for the gelato affogato (means "drowned" in Italian): a scoop of gelato (the crema flavor works best) floating in a cup of high-end Segafredo Zanetti espresso ($3.00), served by Pix and few others in town.

Among rotating flavors (many using Pacific Northwest seasonal berries), the Hollidays have at least one intriguing menu addition in the offing. In coming months, look for spaghetti gelato: extruded crema gelato made to resemble the pasta, with strawberry "pasta" sauce and chocolate gelato "meatballs."

All this decadent eating won't come without its price at the treadmill, but gelato at least has less butterfat (about 7%) than ice cream (more than 10% and sometimes as high as 16%). Or stick to the sorbeto if you must, where the dairy fat is at 0%, but the flavor is at 100% mm, mm good.