MALDEN — Eduardo Kreindel is strolling through the kitchen of his gelato factory, watching approvingly as a young worker folds dried cranberries into a pan of white chocolate gelato. Another is packing Mexican chocolate gelato into pint containers. Kreindel crosses four items off a whiteboard. Only 36 flavors left to go before the day is over.
Kreindel, 57, launched Giovanna Gelato e Sorbet in 2008 in his 350-square-foot Newton basement, in the home where he lives with his wife, Susana. Before long, orders were flowing in and he outgrew the space. In January, he moved the business from Newton to a 2,000-square-foot facility in Malden. Today his client roster includes over 180 local businesses and outlets of national chains, like the Nespresso coffee bar on Newbury Street. Kreindel also customizes flavors for restaurants. “I remember when I started, people were always asking the about difference between gelato and ice cream,” said Kreindel. “It took a bit of time, but these days a lot more people know it’s out there and they know it’s a dessert with a strong Italian heritage.”
The difference between gelato and ice cream, as Kreindel explains it, is that gelato has less fat (it’s made with milk, not cream), a silkier texture (it’s mixed with wide blades that churn slowly, yielding fewer air pockets, where ice crystals can form). Spend five minutes talking to the entrepreneur and you notice that on the subject of gelato, he borders on evangelical.
Kreindel grew up in Argentina and was trained as an architect. He moved to the United States in 1995 but as his career progressed he felt bogged down by corporate bureaucracy, so he changed course. He traces his gelato and sorbet obsession to his childhood. In Buenos Aires, where he was raised, the Italians who immigrated there after World War I opened gelaterias and made desserts in traditional fashion. “There were gelato and sorbet makers on my block. My parents would give me a few pesos and I’d run down the street, wait for the store to open, and buy gelato or sorbet,” he says. “My first memory of my favorite flavors is strawberry and lemon.” Later, Kreindel toured Italy to learn more.
Despite slick metal surfaces and industrial freezers, Kreindel’s kitchen has a grandma’s pantry air about it. The shelves are packed with nostalgia-evoking ingredients, such as Nescafe instant coffee, which he blends with darker Folgers for coffee flavors, Marshmallow Fluff, and Earl Grey tea. A basil plant grows by a window. In a back room, there are boxes of spirits such as limoncello, merlot, and sparkling wine for sorbets.
All gelato is not created equal. Kreindel offers a litmus test to determine quality. “If you want to know if it’s true gelato, try a nut flavor. Nuts are expensive. You can tell immediately if it’s made with real nuts or flavoring,” he says, dipping into some pistachio gelato. “It’s not bright green, but see how intense it is?” A sample delivers a deep, three-dimensional pistachio flavor.
In addition to classics such as caramel-like dulce de leche gelato and strawberry sorbet, Kreindel tinkers with more eccentric flavors. The staff churns out 600 pints a day (priced at $5.99 a pint).
He’s caught some local chefs’ attention, including David Daniels, chef at Oak Long Bar + Kitchen at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. “Once I did a white truffle dinner, and I wanted a gelato for the last course,” says Daniels. “I gave white truffle juice to Eduardo and he nailed it. He came back with an amazing gelato. It had a delicate perfume. It was a little savory. His passion translates into being a great listener.”
The leap from architecture to gelato maker isn’t as incongruous as it seems. “In architecture, you have to create harmony among function, form, and construction,” says Kreindel. “It’s the same thing when you’re doing any type of design.”
That includes sweet Italian treats.
Giovanna Gelato e Sorbet is available at A. Russo & Sons, 560 Pleasant St., Watertown, 617-923-1500; Foodie’s Urban Market, 1421 Washington St., Boston, 617-266-9911, and 230 West Broadway, Boston, 617-269-4700; Wilson Farm, 10 Pleasant St., Lexington, 781-862-3900; or go to www.giovannagelato.com.