Ask any Sydneysider where to find the city's best gelato and you'll hear one word: Messina. The tiny gelateria that opened in 2002 on Darlinghurst's Victoria St is now joined by over 10 stores in Sydney alone, where queues form year-round.
Lighter and less sweet than ice-cream, gelato has become many Australians' scoop of choice in the last 10 years. Natural ingredients and brighter flavours, unmarred by excessive sugar, reflect the philosophy of much Italian food, where simplicity and quality are king.
Next door to the original Messina store is a private dining room known as the Creative Department, where you can pull up a pew and settle in for seven courses of the Messina team's latest gelato experiments. These exclusive flavours form the basis of desserts that wouldn't look out of place in a fine diner, the intent being to open diners' eyes to gelato's many possibilities.
"The whole menu is always based around the gelato," Donato Toce, Messina's head chef, says. "[Gelato] is what we do."
Each course is served with a beverage - tea, soda or perhaps a non-alcoholic cocktail - that's been specially crafted to pair with the desserts on offer.
Team GT stopped by the Creative Department to sample Toce's Taste of Italy menu, pulling up to the Darlinghurst store in a bright 'Amalfi yellow' FIAT 500X. The evening was also a celebration of GT's current Italian issue.
Our dessert degustation kicked off with a purple basil and beetroot granita, followed by mini cones of olive oil sorbet matched with a "gin" and tonic that guests mixed to their own taste. Ingredients for each course were sourced predominantly from New South Wales, including blood plums from Goulburn that topped a flaky puff pastry tart, served with horseradish gelato. Other ingredients, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano and balsamic vinegar of Modena, were sourced directly from their protected regions in Italy.
Discussing his Italian heritage, Toce says: "Your life revolves around food."
This article is presented by FIAT.