SPOTLIGHT: Déjà Vu interviews ... Nonna's Gelato
Go up Broadway Market on a Saturday and you’ll be sure to find a plethora of foodie options but without fail, you’ll find one stall serving up deliciousness by the scoop.
Nonna’s Gelato started off at the market back in 2015 and three years later, is still filling the bellies of hungry East Londoners with their innovative and interesting gelato flavours. We sat down with Sophia, the brains behind the brand and she gave us loads of sweet insights into what it takes to run such a successful gelato stand (or bike in her case)!
So what’s the story behind Nonna’s Gelato?
Sophia wasn’t intending on leading a life churning gelato and actually studied photography at university. This then led her to being part of the photography department in the eversofun Science Museum but this clearly wasn’t the job made for this half Italian ice cream queen. After going travelling with a friend and consuming various different iced goods at least three times a day, she realised that she really did have a love for it. At the start of the business it was just Sophia but now she has one of her sister’s as a partner. Having started in June 2015, she managed to secure a place in Broadway Market which has been the home of Nonna’s Gelato ever since. “The first two months were mental”, Sophia explains and in balancing her job at the Science Museum alongside her new role as a street food vendor, it’s easy to see why. She went on to quit her full time job, joined KERB and that’s when it all took off with doing two or three markets a week.
Making the gelato itself has been a series of research and tasting, of course. Sophia’s Nonna (who the business is named after) gave her a base recipe for Fior de Latte gelato and the innovation started from there. Of course, with a Nonna that makes everything like pasta or gelato from scratch, it was natural that the branding Sophia’s boyfriend created should have Nonna at the front and centre. Even if Nonna does disapprove of the use of a picture of herself in glasses!
When it comes to creating flavours and new combinations for her gelato, Sophia says that it’s all down to what’s in season as certain flavours may only be on the menu for a week or so. As well as paying attention to seasonality, Sophia describes how it’s a balancing act of sugars too and has even made her own formulaic spreadsheet in order to keep track of gelato recipes and mixtures. Now that’s dedication! She talks about the amount of research you have to do in order to perfect gelato and it’s this level of detail in her product that sees many of her customers coming back to her bike each Saturday for more.
Read below for an extra scoop or two:
If you could describe Nonna’s Gelato in 3 words, what would they be?
Local family business.
What one flavour from your stall would you recommend to a first timer?
Well, the bike’s quite small so we only really have a maximum of five flavours at once: one or two sorbets that are both vegan and three other flavours we’ve picked for the week. The bestseller is always a good one to recommend - the Salted Toffee Apple we do is a firm favourite with our customers as well as the Vegan Dark Chocolate and Sicilian Blood Orange Marmalade sorbet we do.
What’s been your most memorable experience so far as a street food vendor?
There was one week this year where we’d booked seven events and four of them were in one day. It was crazy, we had two in East London, one in Enfield and the other in Chiswick but my sisters and I managed it all! At the end of the day we just had one of those really proud moments like, phew we actually did it.
What’s the best thing about being a street food vendor?
The people - all the people involved and the customers really make it. Street vending is informal but so supportive and just recently, me and some other artisanal ice cream vendors met up for dinner.It basically turned into a kind of ice cream therapy session! It was lovely and showed that it’s super important to help each other out. People may look at us and think we’re all competitors because we do similar things but that’s far from it.
What are the future plans for Nonna’s Gelato?
This year we’ve done less markets so it may look like we’re doing less on a day-to-day but we’re actually doing more of what we love; we have the week for production, the weekend to trade and we’re so happy with it. Just recently, I went along to a customer’s wedding and served up their favourite gelatos from the stall - that was a great experience. Baby Nonna is also on the way (expected in the next few weeks) so Broadway Market will be home for as long as they’ll have us. It’s so important to have one spot to build up a loyal base and everyone there is local so it just helps in celebrating the community of East London.
Team Déjà Vu would like to thank Sophia once again for taking the time to sit down with us for this super sweet edition of #DéjàVuSpotlight. Be sure to follow Nonna's Gelato over on Instagram and Twitter.