Riso Gelato

Riso is the most popular gelato at Gelatiamo. Customers rave about it. For years we’ve pleaded to offer it to our customers, but every time we asked Gelatiamo’s owner Maria Coassin we received a firm “No, too labor intensive.”

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But this month, for the first time, we finally got a yes. Riso is our new seasonal flavor, at least so long as supplies last. And the story behind our favorite gelato—and how we finally persuaded Maria to share some with us—is worth telling.

Maria opened Gelatiamo in 1996 in downtown Seattle at what she then referred to as the intersection of Third and Hell. Back then the corner was a difficult one. During her first winter, business was slow and everything seemed cold and dark. Her window looked out on empty downtown streets. She missed Italy and wondered why she’d ever left home to open a Gelateria in Seattle.

“My mind started going back to my younger years, when at winter my mom used to make us Riso al Latte for dinner,” Maria says. “It’s a northern Italian peasant tradition, dating back many decades before my time, when food was scarce and the need for nutrition was high. Nevertheless, it has always been a kids’ favorite, lighter and fulfilling, a mix between dessert and risotto. From this simple memory of days past, and my melancholy state of mind, I started thinking about how I could turn that warm memory into something cold and cool.”

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Filled with longing and renewed passion Maria stirred and stirred the Arborio rice with cream, milk and sugar. A signature flavor was born, one that stirs up nostalgia for Maria.

Maria explains, “It truly takes me back to those winters, when all of us, seven kids, would quietly enjoy our dinner treat, made just on special occasion, almost like a celebration of times gone by.”

You need to taste it to understand truly why it’s so sought after. Maybe it’s something about the combination of delicate flavor and texture. Some think of it as similar to rice pudding or tapioca. And it pairs beautifully with almost anything. It’s light and tangy with the raspberry sorbet, decadent with the chocolate or salted caramel, fresh with the chocolate mint.

So how did Pagliacci finally get Maria to share some of her coveted Riso?

“Pagliacci has been asking from the beginning of our partnership,” Maria says. “But I couldn’t make that much. It’s too labor intensive. It’s just like making a risotto, Italian style, small batch, cooking the rice a little at a time.”

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But things changed when Gelatiamo moved wholesale production to a much needed larger facility in the Sodo space previously occupied by Macrina’s wholesale production. Maria joked with Pagliacci co-owner Matt Galvin, saying that if he gave her a freezer and a cooler she’d make Riso for Pagliacci.

Guess who got the freezer and cooler?

“I am a person of my word, so now Pagliacci has Riso,” Maria says. “Gelatiamo’s most popular recipe, something that comes from my heart and my country and my family, is now going to be part of the Pagliacci family too!”

We hope you love Riso gelato just as much as we do. Give it a try tonight!