Cold comfort: We all scream for ice cream
Caliendo’s Gelato feels like a deeply personal project from a couple who have boldly followed their dreams
13 February, 2020 — By Tom Moggach
Michelina Caliendo-Sear and Fiona Bell
AS career paths go, it’s a weird one – from flight instructor to making gelato in Kentish Town Road. But there’s a powerful sense of destiny for Michelina Caliendo-Sear, who is resurrecting a family tradition.
“It’s kind of in our DNA – the passion for gelato,” she explains.
In 1880, her ancestors moved from Naples to the Italian quarter in Clerkenwell. To earn a living, they hand-churned gelato to sell on the street before moving into bricks and mortar. As a child, Michelina hazily recalls her uncle making gelato before the business finally closed and he trained to become a plumber. “That many years of gelato making just can’t be lost,” she says.
Caliendo’s Gelato trades next to Phoenicia supermarket in the middle of Kentish Town Road and is a joint venture with her partner Fiona Bell. They chose this spot due to the upbeat atmosphere of the high street, with good footfall and many independent shops.
The pair source their fruit from the grocers up the road and nut milks from the nearby health food shop. Cow’s milk comes from a dairy in Gloucestershire.
You’ll find an ever-changing selection of more than 15 flavours – from the classics to the more outlandish.
“I do keep throwing in curve balls such as Strawberry Liquorice and Cherry Bakewell,” says Michelina.
The counter also includes at least four vegan-friendly options at any one time, including excellent sorbets and gelato made with soya milk. (“We do a really good vegan pistachio,” says Fiona.) We loved the pineapple sorbet and banana gelato – intense in flavour and priced at £3.50 per scoop.
In their laboratory at the back, the couple also make specials such as gelato hearts for Valentine’s Day or gelato cakes, as a special order. Get your favourite gelato whizzed into milkshakes with a mountain of whipped cream or scooped onto chocolate-dipped Belgian waffles. They serve Illy coffee, too.
The décor at Caliendo’s Gelato riffs on the classic heist film The Italian Job. A local artist has painted murals on the walls including scenes from the car chase and famous lines such as “if you muck it up, don’t even think of coming back.” Seats are made from upcycled oil drums.
Note the Austin Mini at the back of the room, an original two-seat “shorty” and favourite with children and Instagram fiends. From here, you can also gawp into the gleaming gelato laboratory where all the magic happens.
Caliendo’s Gelato feels like a deeply personal project from a couple who have boldly followed their dreams.
Fiona is originally from Northern Ireland. To my surprise, she tells me her homeland also shares the Italian obsession for gelato. “In Northern Ireland we eat a lot of gelato and ice cream. If you go into any petrol station you will find an ice cream seller of some sort,” she says.
My bet is that this business will thrive. Quality is high and every customer walks out smiling.
182 Kentish Town Road, NW5
020 7482 2791