Portobello road is a plethora of unique finds and home to London’s most unique hipsters. Opened in the last year, Dri Dri Gelato has become an influential part of the Notting Hill territory. The Sketchbook team speaks to Adriano di Petrillo, founder of Dri Dri Gelato on his aspirations and plans for the gelato industry.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of creating a Gelato shop in Notting Hill?
It’s something I’ve wanted to do for the past ten years. Not necessarily in Notting Hill though. There is a brand for pretty much everything, pizza, bakery, juices etc. but not for gelato. Nobody has created a brand with a proper offering in terms of quality and experience and it seemed the perfect opportunity; and on top of it, I love gelato! I have been living abroad for the past fifteen years and I could not find anything like the one I used to have in my hometown in Italy.
Q: What is the difference between gelato and ice-cream?
Gelato is made with milk as the main ingredient. Ice cream is made with butter cream. We don’t add much air, about 20% which is the natural amount that gets absorbed naturally. In ice-cream they actually pump air into the product with a process called overrun. Ice-cream is normally between 18% and 24% fat. Products like Haagen Dasz and Ben and Jerry’s have up to 24% fat. Because of our lack of air, our gelato is creamier, has a better thickness and texture than other brands.
Q: Why was it important to you to make a product that was low in fat and low in artificial flavours?
I eat a lot of it and I need to watch my line! In general people are more sensitive about their weight, their bodies and health condition, so if you can offer the flavour and reduce the calories and fat, why not? We have developed proprietary recipes to do that. For example, our Extra Noir Chocolate Sorbet is only 2.5% in fat and 120 calories per serving. Our fruit sorbets are 0% in fat and 110 calories per serving! The same as frozen yoghurt, but with an explosion of flavour!
Q: What do you have to sacrifice to create such a high standard of product?
To make gelato like this is more expensive and time consuming. We are committed to bring the highest standard of product to the public. That is why, unlike most of other gelateria, we don’t use anything artificial; no emulsifiers, no non-natural thickeners, no flavourings, no colorants etc. We invest a lot of time in sourcing the right ingredients from growers all over the word. To make gelato the way I do is very rare, but you can taste the difference and customers understand it!
Q: I heard in Italy there is a gelato school where you go to learn the art of making the perfect gelato. Did you go there?
There is a famous equipment company that created a gelato “university” as a marketing tool to teach the basics of gelato business and foster the development of gelateria. Their goal is to sell more equipment. But no, I did not attend any of these schools.
You clearly have a love for making and tasting gelato.
I do. I love to eat proper gelato and now I learned how to make it. We went through a process for 6 months to create the perfect gelato. I knew exactly what taste profile I wanted to achieve for each of the flavours we offer.
Now I really enjoy making it as well. We have a vintage gelato machine in our shop and very often you can find me making gelato in front of our customers. Its great fun and people love watching an artisan at work!
That means you’ve eaten a lot of gelato!
Q: Were any of you family members involved in gelato?
Not at all! My father was in the Army and my mother never worked. I also have a very different background, mostly in the corporate world. When I was in business school I started thinking about becoming an entrepreneur and after a few years in Management Consulting, I started my transition. First I joined a small but very high profile company in the fashion business named Art Partner where I served as Managing Director. The company represents very top photographers, stylists and art directors such as Mario Testino, Mert & Marcus, Terry Richardson etc. After that, I co-founded a technology company which didn’t turn out to be the best business idea, but the good thing was some of the investors decided to back this new gelato venture. It was something I really wanted to do for the last ten years and ended up being the perfect timing to do so.
Q: So why did you decide on setting up your business in Notting Hill in particular? Did you think people here would appreciate the taste of gelato more?
I was already living in London and Portobello Road seemed like the obvious place to start a brand because it’s a destination for both foreigners and Londoners. It’s the perfect location because of the market (Portobello) and there is a lot of traffic of hip and cosmopolitan people as well as a very vibrant local community.
Q: What flavour out of your 20 are the most difficult to make?
All our flavours are quite difficult to make because we do not use any chemical “help” to preserve the product and the texture. Every time we want to introduce a new flavour we need to go through a process to find the perfect recipe and source the best ingredient for that particular flavour. For example, to make our Coffee gelato, we spent a great deal of time sourcing the perfect 100% Arabica beans. We ended up finding a single origin, Lington coffee from Sumatra. Then you have to mix the coffee with milk, white cane sugar and carob flour in the right combination to deliver the right flavour but not cover the coffee taste with the milk. At the same time we need to make sure the product is creamy and the texture is consistent. It is really a work of art!
Q: How did you go through the process of choosing your flavours?
All our flavours are Italian classics, with the exception of our signature Crema Dri Dri.
Our offering is dynamic and changes following the season. Let’s say we have a Spring/Summer and a Fall/Winter Collection. Fruits Sorbets are changing according to the fruit that is in season. For example, in September, we will introduce Mint and Chocolate Chips, the Italian version of Rum and Raisin called Mallaga, Granny Smith Apple and Comice Pear Sorbets.
Q: Your ingredients are quite vast. Is that unique to your gelato shop?
We invest a lot in the sourcing of our ingredients. We work with local growers as much as possible. For us it is very important to find the best ingredients that bring a unique and identifiably taste to our product. For example when you make a lemon sorbet with lemons from the Amalfi Coast, it tastes and smells very different to any other lemon sorbets. We can see every day that customers understand the difference and come back to Dri Dri because they like the way we do things.
Q: Your website is well designed. How does that influence your marketing strategy for Dri Dri Gelato?
The website reflects our identity. We try to be coherent in the way we make the product, in the way we sell the product and with the atmosphere you experience while you’re in the shop.
Q: When a customer comes with little knowledge of gelato, are you able to help them choose the gelato that’s right for them?
We try our best to establish a relationship with our customers. There are different cases. Many customers already know what they like. If someone doesn’t know and asks for advice, we ask them if they enjoy fruit or creams and then suggest combinations, like chocolate sorbet and raspberry, a contrast with bitter and sweet. Sometimes we see someone’s face and we know what they like! Finally, we always let customers taste as much as they like to discover their favourites.
Q: You seem to know what you want to achieve in this business. Are you planning on working with other corporations, perhaps opening another store?
We definitely want to open many more stores! But we must make sure that everything runs well first to ensure the quality of product and service. My priority right now is to make sure we are consistent. As far as working with other companies, at this stage I’m not sure. It’s important to stay true to our vision and focus on our plan.
Q: How important is it to source fresh produce from different countries?
I just try to find the best and freshest ingredients to create the best of products. You can’t really find everything in the same country!
Q: Do you think you are a connoisseur of gelato then?
I like to believe so! As a customer I have been experiencing good gelato since I was a child, so I can recognize a good quality product, and I think our customers are appreciating our effort in making an excellent gelato.
Q: What is your ultimate goal for Dri Dri Gelato?
I would like to bring our gelato everywhere in the world and see the faces of our customers lighting up when they taste it!
I also would like to see our Take Home Tubs popping up at dinner parties all over London!
Q: Are you happy to have done this career change?
Oh yeah! The only regret is I did not do it earlier.
Q: Are you proud of your shop?
I am. However we can do better and this is just the start. There is still a long way to go.
Q: How many customers do you see per day?
So far it has been particularly weather dependent. On a good day we have more than 1000 customers. We are working on introducing a new offer more winter friendly.
Q: What is the most expensive flavour to produce?
All our flavours are quite expensive to produce because of the reasons I explained before.
Q: What’s your personal favourite flavour?
Crema, for me it’s amazing. The best combination is Crema and cherry or Crema and Bacio.
Q: Your gelato is very low in fat.
Of our 20 flavours, most are between 6-8% fat. The fruit sorbet is 0% fat and 110 calories per serving. The chocolate sorbet is only 2.5% fat, 120 calories. You want something that makes you feel good but doesn’t affect your figure greatly, but still remain flavourful.
Dri Dri Gelato offers an extensive range of quintessential seasonal flavours for their sorbets and gelato’s.
In the centre of Portobello Road, Dri Dri Gelato is an essential part of your relic rummage. Whether to cool your body off from the basking and periodically existent British sun or to enjoy the luscious smoothness of a unique arrangement of flavours, one must open one’s mouth to the wonder that is the gelato of Dri Dri.
WORDS: Megan McDowell
INTERVIEWERS: Megan McDowell together with Cleide Carina
IMAGES: Adriano di Petrillo