Cold Stuff, Comin' Through!

By Joe Sevier

By

Joe Sevier
Pastry Chef Jennifer Felton and the Gelato Mountain
Pastry Chef Jennifer Felton and the Gelato Mountain

I scream. You scream. We all scream when a rippling mountain of pristine, white gelato—some 10-quarts high—comes wheeling through the dining room on a wooden cart at Cotogna. 

The idea came to Chef-Owner Michael Tusk during a trip to Italy, where gelaterias often showcase buckets filled beyond their limits with billowing towers of their signature confection. According to Pastry Chef Jennifer Felton, who executes the service, Tusk had approached many of his former pastry chefs about taking on the task of tableside gelato, but “everyone dragged their feet.” When he brought the idea to her, however, it was full speed ahead.

To keep the cold stuff cold while it travels, Felton relies on a large platter from Heath Ceramics. "We tried a lot of plates, but this one is pretty key," she says, since "it keeps the cold really well." Upon order, the platter of gelato is removed from its dedicated home in Felton's reach-in, placed on a mised-out dessert cart, and wheeled into the dining room before making a round trip back to the freezer.

"We keep it simple" says Felton of the service, which is offered six nights per week and stars an “eggless vanilla-bean milk ice” that she or the line cook on duty scoop off the mountain into metal goblets. They’ve offered a few other flavors during the two years they’ve been (literally) pushing gelato—such as eggnog or gingerbread during the holidays—but vanilla proves to be the perennial favorite and biggest seller. Guests can choose to add on a dose of amaro (Nonino, St. George’s NOLA Coffee Liqueur, Frangelico), before a generous pour of salty dark chocolate sauce is drizzled over the top.

Because it’s so simple, guests often request the gelato service as an addendum to menu items they’re already ordering—the gelato mountain doesn’t appear on the menu, but regulars know to ask for it. And servers barely have to suggest the gelato cart to newcomers, because “all it takes is one person ordering it” and the whole dining room lights up (as does the check average). Per Felton, “it sells itself.” 

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