Morano Gelato (Hanover, NH)

I’ve always been a great fan of gelato. The Italian cousin to ice cream, gelato is a more subtler variation on the same idea. milk, cream, sugar, and flavoring. But just like the idea that while hash browns and french fries are both the same thing (fried potatoes), it’s the difference in execution that makes gelato such a great product. More milk than in ice cream, less air, gentle churning, and a warming serving temperature always make for a pleasant bowl of rich, creamy gelato.

Unfortunately, while ice cream shops are plentiful (indeed, soft serve places are a dime a dozen around here in the summer months), good gelato places are fairly rare in the US. And, until 2010, nonexistent around here. Until Morano Gelato opened up shop.

Morano Gelato is a classic example of a person coming up with a good idea, and executing it well with a good business plan. Morano is the product of proprietress Morgan Morano’s ambition. After several years of living in Italy, she returned to the Upper Valley, and found the lack of gelato here disappointing.

So she decided to go into business for herself. In 2010 she started with a gelato freezer run out of the kitchen at Kimball Union Academy after hours, and would then serve her delicious gelato (two flavors only) up at the Hanover farmer’s market, earning a following. After raising a little bit of money that way, she worked out a deal selling the gelato out of the back of Rosie’s Cafe on Lebanon St in Hanover. Her customers followed. Finally, this April, she was able to land a lease on Main Street next to the Nugget Theater, and now has a permanent retail presence. And, more importantly, a larger freezer case.

These days, Morano usually has at least a dozen varieties of gelato, usually posting their latest batches to their twitter feed. Since gelato doesn’t generally store well before losing the texture, their model is to make it from scratch every morning, and they generally sell out in the evening (indeed, while their closing time is 9:30 or 10 most evenings, I’ve often seen them down to just a few flavors by closing time). And the place has definitely caught on with the locals, with a fairly healthy line of movie-goers and Dartmouth students often to be found snaking out the door and across the plaza in front of the theater.

Why? Well, it’s obvious: the gelato is very good. Excellent, in fact. The gelato here has everything I look for in a good gelato: a perfectly smooth texture, Cool but not too cold, top-notch ingredients, and some inventive flavors. Sure, vanilla and strawberry are generally in the rotation (the former with actual vanilla beans, and the latter made from local strawberries in season), but there’s also several flavors of chocolate (dark, milk, and chocolate with hot pepper), some traditional Italian flavors (spumoni, nocciola (hazelnut), and biscotti, for example), and even a few wild flavors (olive oil or black pepper, to name two I’ve seen). And it’s not just gelato, the fairly cozy cafe space also has a full coffee menu (and, most importantly, the willingness to serve up an affogato: a scoop of gelato topped with fresh espresso) as well, as well as a few items (hot chocolate and pastries) designed for those days when you might not be craving gelato.

This time, I opted for a medium bowl (shown here) of gelato, with a trio of my favorite flavors: chocolate with hot pepper (since chocolate and hot pepper go so, so well together, I’m glad this combination became mainstream), hazelnut (I’m basically a Nutella addict), and biscotti. Not just were all three flavors perfect, they even go well together.

In any case, Morano serves up some of the best gelato I’ve had (and definitely the best I’ve had in the US). I’m lucky to have this place virtually in my back yard.

For those others here that have been to Morano, what’s your favorite flavor?

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