“This is not a circus. There is no bacon in our ice cream,” says Andy Sabola, owner of Gelateria Gemelli, a neighborhood spot housed in the Corazon building on East Sixth Street and offering a selection of seasonal, small-batch gelatos. After learning how to make authentic Italian gelato in Bologna, and eating his way through Florence and Rome, Sabola returned to Austin intent on reintroducing locals to products made with fresh, high-quality, organic ingredients.
But as luck (and Texas weather) would have it, Gemelli first opened its doors last spring to one of the rainiest seasons on record, not exactly gelato weather. “It was scary,” says Sabola. Eventually, the rain stopped, the clouds broke, and people started pouring in. What surprised many customers, though, is the liquor bar behind the counter, fully stocked with the city’s largest collection of Italian amaros. “It’s taken a while to teach people that they can drink in an ice cream parlor,” admits Sabola.
But customers needn’t be nervous about the unexpected combo. Sabola suggests ordering The Montenegro, which hails from Bologna and contains notes of orange and clove, and pairing it with a scoop of hazelnut and Valrhona chocolate. Bellisimo! If you’re looking for something even more refreshing, try the Paper Plane, a cocktail of bourbon, Meletti amaro, Aperol and a lemon twist and add a scoop of sorbetto. (The menu for Gelateria Gemelli changes seasonally, but when we stopped by, the pineapple/mint and orange/olive oil sorbets were phenomenal companions to the Paper Plane.) For beer drinkers, the shop offers brews from Austin Beerworks, and Sabola suggests trying the Beerfogato — a boozy take on the classic affogato.
The space itself is a testament to Sabola’s penchant for simple, unadulterated taste. Between the austerity of the shop’s concrete and marble, and the familiarity of the black bistro chairs and white penny tiles, Gemelli reinterprets your grandmother’s ice cream shoppe into an ultra-cool lounge. Nevertheless, Sabola says Gemelli is something “everyone can relate to.” While it sits just down the block from the bars and buzzing nightlife scene of East Sixth, Gemelli is ideal for people looking for a laidback neighborhood spot.
Sabola is not just giving customers a chance to try something different, he’s also empowering local chefs and other small business owners by giving them an opportunity to showcase their work. In early February, Gemelli hosted Chef Taylor Chambers of Justine’s Brasserie for a pop-up dinner event, and has also collaborated with Hannah Casparian of Hannah Bakery for her popular Saturday bake sales. Gemelli spreads the love even further by participating in events benefiting various community organizations like AIDS Services of Austin, the Hispanic Alliance and the Workers Defense Project. Gelato, Italian cocktails and a scoop of social justice? Sounds like a sweet deal.