PHOTOGRAPH BY JONNY MARLOW
When they moved to Palm Springs three years ago, Simonetta “Sam” Rainieri and Tom Allen didn’t even own an ice cream machine. But they did have a family connection. Rainieri comes from a line of gelatiere, the Italian appellation for gelato makers. Her grandfather left Tuscany for the Netherlands during the roaring 1920s and sold gelato from a bicycle cart. That humble origin formed the basis of a wholesale operation still going strong. Relatives traveled to the United States to school the couple on the gelato trade.
A former engineer, Allen approaches gelato making with scientific precision. “Gelato, like baking, is all about ratios and measurements,” he says. “Balancing the amount of sugars, fats, and solids, you end up with that mouthfeel of gelato.” His coffee flavor took six weeks of experimentation. “I make it with a 24-hour cold brew coffee,” Allen explains. “I minimize the acids in the coffee, so it doesn’t have too much bitterness.”
Grannucci features classics from amarena cherry to stracciatella.
Adhering to custom, Grannucci features classics from amarena cherry to stracciatella, sweet cream speckled with chocolate shavings. There are surprises, too. “One of the things my uncle taught us,” Rainieri says, “is you have to make this unique to you.” Hence, a dessert from dining memories in New Orleans became Granucci’s crowd-pleasing Bananas Foster gelato. Originally created to celebrate Mardi Gras, it’s now part of the permanent rotation thanks to overwhelming demand.
“We always start with real ingredients,” Rainieri says. From the milk to the citrus, Granucci sources from across California. The java comes from Joshua Tree Coffee Company, while Rancho Mirage-made Brandini Toffee is swirled into a toffee gelato. Harvests from the old country make an appearance, too. Among them: deep-roasted Sicilian Bronte pistachios and the “round noble of Piedmont,” aka Tonde Gentile del Piedmonte hazelnuts.