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25 September 2017

About...Strawberry and Red Pepper Gelato of Bar Della Darsena in Fiumicino (Rome), Italy


It's called "About...Strawberry and Red Pepper" and it recently won second place in the recent European Gelato Festival in Florence for its simple and frank refreshing flavors of red peppers and strawberries. Imagine a strawberry sorbet with a surprising gentle kick of sweet peppery taste. It doesn't overwhelm the strawberry, rather, its flavor wraps itself around the berry with a very light nuance of sapidity at the end. What else can I say? You have to go to the town of Fiumicino and have yourself a few scoops before the strawberry season ends.   

Bar Della Darsena has been around for years fronting the port of Fiumicino. It's a bar with a lot of tables and chairs which accommodate locals and tourists. It's a place where people meet to have something like coffee, cocktail, or gelato to cool down in the hot summer days in its big open space. And then gelato maker Vincenzo Lenci came home last May 2017 with great news. He won first place (senior division) in the semi-finals of the Gelato Festival in Rome.


His gelato, About...Strawberry and Red Pepper was classified as one of the fifteen finalists in the European Gelato Festival that was to be held in Florence four months later. It's an accomplishment, not only for himself but shared also by the whole town. September 21st, the big day at the European Gelato Festival arrived and Vincenzo Lenci got the silver trophy!


A few weeks before the Gelato Festival, I visited Vincenzo in his laboratory at the back of Bar Della Darsena. A jolly person who has lived almost all his life in Fiumicino, married an Englishwoman (thus the English name of his gelato) and focused his life in making gelato, the grandeur of such an accomplishment awarded to him was so cherished and I think well-deserved for the years of dedication he has given to making gelato. He studied the proper approach to gelatomaking, experimented, stayed with traditional flavors and perhaps made an odd flavor or two over the years. 

Left: Vincenzo Lenci (2nd Place); Middle:  Massimiliano Scotti of Verolatte (1st Place); Right: Lodziarno Cukierno of Gastronomie Limoni Canteri 1952 (3rd Place) (Photo from Gelato Festival site) 
I watched him work systematically with two of his new and bestselling summer gelato flavors: About...Strawberry and Red Pepper, and Peach and Basil. I got to know this celebrated gelato maker more deeply as he chopped the fresh basil that came from his own mother's garden, the last ingredient he needed to add to the peach and basil sorbet. He spoke about the process of making gelato, his philosophy, the importance of following the seasons to get the best of the fresh ingredients, the excitement and pressure in the upcoming European Gelato Festival. 


When I asked him about how About...Strawberry and Red Pepper came to fruition, he said that the combination had been in his mind for sometime until finally after his relentless harping, his wife and staff told him to go for it. Which he did and got a surprising result that he never expected. He was chosen as one of the fifteen finalists of European Gelato Festival 2017 in Florence and he also won the gold medal for the Best Gelato in the Senior Category of the semi-finals in Rome. He made me try his "strawberry and red pepper sushi", a fresh fruit version of the gelato which was actually a hulled strawberry with a little wedge of red pepper inserted in the middle. Being seasonal, the quality and sweetness of the strawberries differ from zone to zone and Vincenzo bases the use of his strawberries according to the right period. He starts from Basilicata, the southern part of Italy for the sweet early strawberries and procures them more northern in Piedmont then all the way up to the Netherlands in the later period to get the best of the ingredients.


For the rest of the gelato that Vincenzo makes, he stayed with the more traditional flavors including the naturally-blue colored gelato with spirulina, a blue-green algae that he uses to give that indigo hue to the vanilla gelato. With the shiny new silver trophy sitting next to the equally shiny gold medal, Fiumicino's own gelateria made a mark in the map for excellent gelato in the European level.


Bar Della Darsena

Viale Traiano, 133
00054 Fiumicino (RM), Italy 
Open daily from 6 AM to 2 AM


Where to Eat in Fiumicino: