Il Gelato in Hawaii

“Everyone in Germany is addicted to gelato,” and, “Hawaii is great, but there’s no good gelato,” says Dirk Koeppenkastrop of Il Gelato. That’s pretty much all you need to know about why a German guy is making gelato in Hawaii. And two things worth knowing about his gelato: all his flavors are remarkably creamy and one of them, the hazelnut gorgonzola flavor, is just remarkable, utterly rich and smooth with just the faintest hint of blue cheese on the finish.

What differentiates gelato from ice cream is that less air is beaten into it during the freezing process, so it’s denser. Yet, since most gelato eschews eggs and copious amounts of heavy cream, it feels lighter on the tongue.

Koeppenkastrop can get very technical in discussing his gelato-making, describing his shock freezer, ideal ice crystals propagation, the use of stabilizers and invert sugars (all natural, he’s quick to add). He does, after all, have a PhD in physical chemistry from UH, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People on his shelf, and, well, he is German. But the truth is, frozen desserts have gotten quite complicated in the past years. In some circles, the notion of a creme anglaise (custard) base for ice cream now seems provincial. These days, ice cream is being made with liquid nitrogen and sorbets with Pacojets, a high-powered food processor that renders frozen fruit juice into finely-textured particles so smooth you’d be tempted to swear off Häagen-Dazs altogether.

And so Koeppenkastrop uses all his knowledge to make some of the creamiest frozen desserts out here, and in flavors beyond chocolate and vanilla. There’s a saffron gelato and chai chocolate he makes for Himalayan Kitchen. In the Whole Foods gelato case, he offers pineapple mint, candied ginger, lemongrass and lime sorbetto.

La Gelateria, the only other major gelato player in town, has had a 30-year head start over Il Gelato, so supplies most of the restaurants around town, but Koeppenkastrop managed to wrestle a few high-profile accounts: Alan Wong’s Pineapple Room, Roy’s restaurants and Michel’s.

And just for fun, he keeps a little gelato cart outside his production kitchen, scooping the aforementioned hazelnut gorgonzola in an industrial corner by Dole Cannery.

 501 Sumner St. Suite 501, 542-9276,