Gelato in a Phyllo Nest


One of the things that don’t cease to surprise me, after 18 years in the US, is how strongly, deeply, philosophically anti-air conditioning my fellow Italians can be. It’s not only about being more ecologically aware than our American counterparts – we really hold on to our grandmas’ belief that artificial cooling can cause a plethora of maladies, from headaches to stomach congestion (whatever that is), to pneumonia. Of course, when it’s 100+ degrees outside, we have our own cooling methods.


1)    (also called: Italian air conditioning) leave your windows open from about 10 pm to 7 am, to allow the cool breeze to come in. Keep them shut during the day. Grab a fan.

2)    Limit “real food” to dinner time; the rest of the day, eat mostly fruit and vegetables and indulge often in frozen desserts.


To those of you who are cringing at the idea of daily ice cream, I’d like to point out that Italian gelato is made with milk instead of cream. Not only that, artisanal gelato includes real eggs, real fruit: it’s definitely more “real’ than a box of mac & cheese! On the other hand, in this land of advertising and additives, it might sound about as interesting as broccoli to the younger ones. Try to explain to your 4 and 5 year olds that home-made is better than the  treats from the local ice cream cart with its hypnotizing chime.


Even when I can convince mine to forgo the colorant-laden packaged Dora stuff, they still demand at least cones. This has been a problem for me when trying to serve them my home-made gelato…. I was not thrilled about storing wholesale quantities of cones in my Manhattan apartment, and the idea of what could happen to our Persian rugs gave me the shivers.


My “Eureka” moment came when I saw something that my talented and sophisticated friend Lucilla served at a dinner party…. gelato in edible cups! It made me realize that, for my two demanding little customers Gabo and Bianca, it was all about being able to polish off every possible trace of their dessert. Lucilla was kind enough to share her secret, and here it is. Enjoy your Summer!



  • 1/2 lb phyllo dough (home-made or store-bought)
  • 1/2 lb vanilla gelato (home-made or store-bought)
  • 1/2 lb bittersweet or dark chocolate (grated, or use chips)
  • 1 basket berries
  • milk and butter


Cut the phyllo into 16 squares. Place 4 of them into 4 muffin pans lined with parchment, and brush the top with melted butter. Top each square with another square (without making the corners overlap), and repeat with 4 phylo squares for each muffin pan, brushing with butter in between. Bake in a pre-heated 360 F oven for about 10 minutes or until slightly golden. While the phyllo nests are baking, melt the chocolate in a saucepan on low heat with a few tablespoons of milk (enough to make a smooth but thick sauce). Allow the nests to cool off before unfolding them. Before serving, place a large scoop of vanilla gelato in each nest, and decorate with warm chocolate sauce and red berries. Enjoy!

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  1. yum! i would endure the heat italian style if i could have that everyday!

  2. Jody Steinberg says:

    Italians don’t need air-conditioning because it’s not so awfully humid in Italy as in America. Also, in America, we don’t have “Persiani.” Thanks for the recipe; it sounds great. Maybe I’ll make homemade gelato some time.

    • Jody – I just wish it was true! In reality, it depends on the region. In Venice, where I grew up, the summer can be brutal with 90 percent humidity. Most people finally gave in and had a/c units installed (event my mom bought one a couple of years ago), but they run them only when it’s unbearable, and still prefer the natural methods I described in my post….Y

  3. Im going to have to try this! I love gelato so much more than ice cream!

  4. How beautiful!

  5. I love ice cream in a nest. Texture contrasts are so wonderful between the crunch and the creamy. Lovely.

  6. I love the idea of fresh, whole berries on top of the ice cream..I can imagine the taste after looking at this!

  7. Lovely photos!

  8. such a great serving idea! i love gelato!! i cant believe italians dont use ACs. i cant imagine 90% humidity without being cooped up in my house with the ac blasting!

  9. This sounds great. I love the idea of being able to eat the whole dessert, including the dish.

  10. I could definitely limit the real food if I got to enjoy this.

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