Chez and Carly De Bartolo are the husband and wife team behind Chicho Gelato – our favourite gelateria in Perth, if not all of Australia.
Last week Chicho lent their artistry to create two unique flavours inspired by THREE COATS; an exhibition of artworks by Mariaan Pugh and George Howlett currently on display at Dilettante.
This month, we take a moment to chat with Chicho’s matriarch Carly De Bartolo about new wave gelato, her inspiration, style and European influences.
D: I believe the last time I saw you & Chez was outside the Daft Punk gig many moons ago! From memory were you a pharmacist at that stage Carly? And what was Chez doing with himself?
C: Yes, I studied pharmacy and practiced clinical pharmacy working mainly in hospitals for almost 10 years. Chez worked in oil and gas as an estimator. We were probably wearing some ridiculous pre-loved clothes we picked up from a thrift store. I think I spent most weekends in my mid 20’s sifting through charity shops looking for what we called ‘gold’. I laugh when I look back on photos now. My Yiayia (grandma) was a tailor so I often took her garments for adjusting. She would say to me ‘for goodness sake Carly just buy me some material and I can make you something that actually fits’.
D: So at what stage did you guys decide to change career paths and become gelato kings?
C: (Laughing) Gelato kings! not sure we are quite there yet… The moment came on a train to Paris. Living in London at the time Chez turned to me and said, “You love gelato, and Perth needs a good quality Gelateria, we should go to Italy and learn the art before we head back to Perth.” London was a huge melting pot of start-ups and fresh young chefs coming from all over the world trying to make it. That together with the vast travel we did whilst living there, from India to Iceland, spurred us to start something ourselves. Having seen and done so much we wanted to use this experience and give something back. Food being an integral part in both families was an obvious choice.
After a year’s ‘sabbatical’, we arrived in Perth in 2013 bought a house, got married and started a business within a year. I remained part time in my profession for a year whilst Chez worked on the business starting with mobile gelato carts. This was a wonderful start to a world we were very unfamiliar with, hospitality. Two years later we signed a lease to the state theatre space and haven’t looked back since.
D: And how did you come up with the name CHICHO? Do you or Chez have an Italian background?
C: My parents are of Greek heritage and Chez’s (Cesare) are Italian.
When visiting his relatives in Italy we noticed they referred to his little cousins as ‘Chicho’, meaning cheeky kid. We figured gelato has childhood connotations and the name was catchy so we went with it.
D: Were you apprehensive at first about working together? What are, (if any) some of the hurdles associated with working alongside your spouse?
C: Yes, I won’t lie some days are a struggle and our biggest weakness is that we sometimes let our frustrations out on one another. However, I don’t think we would be where we are today without doing it together. We have very different skill sets and we try to highlight these as best we can without stepping on each other’s toes. We are lucky we have each other to bounce ideas and flavours off.
D: Were your individual roles in the business obvious from the start or did you just find yourself drawn to certain aspects along the way?
C: I started part time so I solely did back of house manufacture and Chez did everything else. We still have this divide now. I am hopeless on any form of technology and still use pen and paper for all my formulation/recipes whereas Chez, given his background, loves a good excel spreadsheet and is heavily involved in social media and the business side of things. It is a bit of a role reversal because I hate multitasking and Chez is often pulled in all sorts of directions.
D: Can you tell me how you develop a new flavour? What’s involved in taking an idea and making it into a final product?
C: For flavours I look at seasonality and produce foremost. I have made some good connections now with local farmers and they are often extremely helpful in referring me to other farmers with interesting produce. For example I get my limes for the Island to Island sorbet from a producer in Gingin, and he also grows Japanese pumpkin so I am going to start working on a new flavour with that – a spiced pumpkin with buttered pecans. I then have to formulate a recipe with the pumpkin ensuring it is balanced for flavour and structure. I have specific parameters for sugars, lipids, solids and water that I calculate in order for the texture to be correct. Like all recipes it requires a nice balance of sweetness, acidity, and even saltiness for flavour. I do a few small batch trials and keep tweaking until I’m happy then I let Chez try it.
D: The CHICHO brand has a really strong aesthetic, from your ice-cream carts, to the fit-out of the gelateria. How did you develop the brand identity?
C: We worked with some friends from Nude Design studio who did a wonderful job in establishing the brand. For the fit-out we used a local designer Jennifer Lowe. We told her the scope and she turned it into reality. Now we are using Traianos Pakioufakis for our graphics, who is a close friend, an all round legend and a man of many creative talents.
D: You seem to always be working on something new & collaborating with other local businesses, what are some of the things you guys working on at the moment?
C: We have quite a few things on the go. Our next chef collaboration is by far the most unique flavour we have ever done. It is with an extremely talented young chef by the name of Jacob D’vauz, and without giving too much away – think seafood! We are doing a granita with Late Night Valentine for Negroni week, and I am very excited to soon be working with the very talented ladies from Little Matcha Girl. It is extremely important to support local producers as much as possible.
We will also be launching some new flavours and a really exciting dessert at the end of the month.
D: Both you and Chez have always been exceptionally stylish people, how do you think your style has evolved now that you run your own business?
C: I have more emphasis now on quality and hard-wearing garments. I would rather spend a little more on a piece that will last me years than waste it on mass produced garments. Usually these use poor quality material and are made in sweat shops. The same concept can be found in food and ingredients, I’d rather spend more on a quality local product that I know will taste better and yield a much better result that I am proud of.
D: Did living in Europe have an impact on the way you dress?
C: Definitely. When we arrived we were still wearing our vintage/thrift shop garments then by the time we left we had experienced the faults of high street fashion and had moved onto quality garments. I still have a lot of pieces I purchased from London 6 years ago. I think the two most important things a garment should possess is wear-ability and comfort, and I guess the two are not mutually exclusive. It is really important to feel comfortable in what you wear as this reflects your personality. It is also extremely important to dress to your body type/shape and know your limitations as well as knowing what colours suit you. Growing up with a tailor as a grandmother and a mother who was never afraid to tell me when things didn’t look right, I am very critical of garments now, I always look at what they are made of and where they are made. With the popularity of online shopping it is easy for people to purchase and settle for garments they might not necessarily have bought if they tried it in a shop, for example it’s quite common that you would visit a store with a garment in mind but walk out with another piece as it doesn’t look or feel right. I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to buying fashion I guess.
Be sure to drop in and sample some of Carly’s creations for yourself!
Located in the heart of Northbridge at 180 William street, the sublime Chicho gelateria is open from 12pm every day of the week.