Gelato Jonny 22 – Why to spatula serve gelato Are you sitting comfortably?

I would like to start this month with an anecdote which is not specific to one particular customer, but a recurring theme with gelato makers. On many occasions I have visited parlours and gelaterias around the UK and wondered why they have chosen to serve gelato using a scoop rather than a spatula.  Invariably the answer is the same ‘we break too many cones when we use a spatula to serve our gelato’ and/or ‘we give too much gelato away if we serve with spatulas’.  So in this article I am going to attempt to explain how you can successfully serve gelato using a spatula without incurring cone breakages  or increasing your costs by using too much gelato. We are happier using a scoop to serve gelato not a spatula

However before we look at how to serve gelato with a spatula let’s consider why.  Firstly a couple of questions for you;

  • Have you spent many hours developing your range of artisan gelato flavours?
  • Do you invest time, energy and passion in creating your own particular artisan gelato?

I am guessing the answer is yes probably to both of these.  So my next question to you is why would you undersell all your hard efforts by then serving your carefully balanced gelato recipes by using a scoop?  Don’t stop reading or get shirty with me if you are using a scoop and perfectly happy with that – humour me and read on.  If you decide to continue to use a scoop to serve your gelato by the end of this article then that is your prerogative but hear me out first.  I imagine that if we were having this discussion face to face you would now be questioning what I mean by ‘underselling’.  I should emphasise that I am specifically talking about serving gelato here not ice cream.  If you look at the best, the most famous and typically the Italian gelato experts you will never see a cone with a balled scoop of ‘gelato’ it is always served with the finesse and art of a spatula.  This is part of the gelato brand and helps to differentiate it from our classic ice cream which we serve in scoops.

environmentally Scoop not spatula for serving your gelato

The aesthetics are very important when selling both ice cream and gelato as we have discussed before in previous articles.  People buy with their eyes.  Therefore it is important that your gelato is presented well, not just in your cabinet, but as it leaves your shop on the cone.  The keyword here is ‘on’ the cone not ‘in’ the cone.  You want your artisan gelato to be on full display so everyone turns and looks at your gelato in your customer’s hands and thinks ‘I wonder where they bought that – I want one of those’. So now for a bit of science…

Science about serving gelato

We have already established that you have spent time and effort creating the perfectly balanced set of recipes for all your gelato flavours.  This means you have considered the amount of air in your gelato as well as all the ingredients you have physically added.  If you then use a scoop to serve this carefully crafted gelato the air is pressed out so it changes the ‘in the mouth’ feel when your customer then consumes their chosen flavour.  It also means you have to serve more gelato per portion.

So why can we use a spatula for gelato but not for ice cream?  At the risk of teaching my grandmother to suck eggs (or expert makers about gelato), gelato is served at a slightly higher temperature than ice cream.  Due to the texture of gelato, the air content and the temperature it will stick to the cone which means you don’t need to push it into the cone.  Therefore the key to serving gelato with a spatula is not to press so hard.  It is a different technique than serving ice cream and once you have mastered it I guarantee you will not change back.

Spatula step by step

OK let’s get to the actual step by step guide to using a spatula.  I am not sure how easy this will be to explain without physically demonstrating it to you but I have taken some photos to try and help visualise what I mean. However if you are still not sure then do get in touch.

Step 1 – Always keep your spatulas cold – how?  As soon as you set up your cabinet each day put a spatula in each pan – it will keep it cold and also ensure that you don’t mix spatulas between flavours or potentially allergens.

Step 2 – Show your staff how to identify the head and neck of a spatula – why?  Because the gelato should never touch the neck of the spatula.

Step 3 – Use the spatula to drag the gelato to the bottom left of the pan (if you are left handed) and bottom right of the pan (if you are right handed)

Step 4 – The portion is now facing the bottom corner of the pan. See the images to show this next step.

Step 5 – Now you have the gelato on the spatula you need to put it ‘onto’ not ‘into’ the cone.  Remember that as soon as the gelato touches the cone it will stick to it so it will not fall off.  Simply slide the gelato off the spatula and once it is stuck to the cone pull the spatula away leaving the gelato on the cone. Any gelato left on the spatula you can parallel slide onto the back of the gelato on the cone.

You do not need to press down, so keep the spatula at 90 degrees to the cone, as soon as you decrease that angle you will press it down and that is when you lose your gelato into the cone out of sight and there is an increased risk of breaking the cone.

A side note about the waffle cone

Waffle cones have a ‘low point’ or a ‘heart’ (as indicated by in the image) which is where the waffle pancake overlaps.  Always ensure that this is facing the customer as you serve and when you hand it to them as this will show the maximum amount of gelato, making them feel like they have a good portion size.

Customers often ask me at this point ‘what if it doesn’t look big enough?’  If you think it doesn’t look like enough then the chances are the customer will think the same, so don’t be afraid to add a bit more (it may be you have inadvertently pressed the gelato down into the cone).  You will find this happens less and less once you get the hang of serving this way and your confidence increases.  One of the main reasons parlours struggle with costs (apart from closures due to the pandemic) is because a lot of staff are afraid about not giving the customer enough.

Would you ever use a scoop again?

Whenever I return to visit a customer after training I always find that the staff are really happy that they have mastered serving with a spatula.  They find serving gelato with a spatula is easier than using a scoop, the portions look bigger and it is quicker, and when asked, they say they would never go back to using a scoop.  I should just add here that I am not against using scoops – they are perfect for ice cream but don’t be frightened to use a spatula to serve your gelato.  It is also easier to add a second portion on top – but that is another lesson, so if you would like advice on larger servings you know where to find me.

See you next time for the latest scoop or should we say spatula?


Gelato Jonny Antonelli’s National Technical Manager Jonny Ireland is a regular contributor to the ICA’s Ice Cream Magazine…

See how this article looked in the May 2021 Edition of the ICA’s Ice Cream Magazine…

Copyright © 2018 antonelli. All Rights Reserved