The buzz had started in the cool of winter that a former pizza guy, via Sicily and Brooklyn, had opened a new Italian gelateria and bakery on White Plains Road in Eastchester.
It was a hell of a time to start selling gelato, I thought.
So the first thing that struck me on this warm day when I finally made it to the new Pane & Gelato were the display cases -- the one on the left was loaded to the brim with colorful gelato, 24 different flavors all beckoning for a taste. The display case on the right also lured me in with its enticing, lush-looking pastries, cakes and cookies.
The aromas of fresh baking and espresso wafted through the 40-seat room. And within a short time on this lovely spring evening a line of customers began to form, some sitting at tables inside, some taking their flavorful larder out. The gelato season was coming on, I thought.
Pane & Gelato is the brainchild of Paolo and Lidia Polano, Eastchester residents who have been shaping this idea for the past five years. Once Mr. Polano sold Fina, his popular pizzeria in the Wykagyl section of New Rochelle, he moved forward, making the necessary connections back in his native hometown of Agrigento, Sicily. He searched out authentic sources for ingredients, many of which were already being grown on surrounding farms. It was ambitious, attempting to emulate the authentic flavors of Italy here in the states.
I believe an explanation of gelato would be useful here. I made the mistake of mentioning ice cream during my conversation with Mr. Polano and he interjected quickly: "We do not have ice cream here, we have gelato!" He was emphatic about it, and for good reason. It is a different product after all, thought by many dessert aficionados worldwide as the magical distant cousin of ice cream, one of the best creamy, cooling desserts on the planet. A rule of thumb among foodies: When visiting Italy, try the gelato!
The Polanos pointed out it's healthier than ice cream, with a lower butterfat content. Gelato is made with fresh milk specially pasteurized along with natural fruits, nuts and ingredients. Nutritionally, they said, gelato has 26 percent less fat than ice cream. And gelato is frozen very quickly in individual small batches in a batch freezer. The end result, gelato and its cousin sorbetto, always have more intense flavor. Gelato has to be fresh, since it doesn't have a long shelf life like ice cream.
Prior to tasting the gelato, you may want to try one of the Panino, Italian sandwiches served with a variety of fillings -- prosciutto crudo di Parma, mozzarella, tomato and rucola; or from Palermo, layered with salami, provolone, radicchio and tomato. There are also pizzettas (small pizzas), focaccia, and Italian style insalatas like tomato and mozzarella, and Italian tuna salad.
The master Italian baker behind the pastry menu here offers up such daily enticements as pistacchio, nutella, nocciola and Sicilian almond tarts; strawberry and orange crostata; Sicilian cannoli; baba au rhum; tiramisu; fresh rainbow cookies, and biscotti. The breads are flown in straight from Italy, as are most of the ingredients that go into the preparation of the gelato and pastries. According to the Polanos, all bread, pastries, gelato and other menu items are either made in Sicily, or right on the premises with ingredients flown in from Sicily.
"The best in the world!" says Paolo.
There's also bagged imported coffees and olive oils. Fresh granita, frappelli and custom made cakes are here too. So do go and visit, and Buon Appetito!
Pane & Gelato Caffe e Pasticceria is located at 290 White Plains Road (Rt. 22), Eastchester. It is open 7 days a week from 8 am to 11:30 pm. Same menu served all day. Price range: espresso from $2; panino from $5.; salads from $7; small pizzetta $3.; pastries $1.50 to $3. per portion; gelato from $2.50 per cone; in a brioche sandwich $6.50; by the pound $10.99; bread from $1.50 each; cakes from $6.99 per pound. Casual dress. Free parking. Phone: 914-337-1800. firstname.lastname@example.org
(Morris Gut is a restaurant consultant and former restaurant trade magazine editor. He has been tracking and writing about the dining scene in greater Westchester for more than 25 years. He may be reached at: 914-235-6591. E-mail: email@example.com)