Could gelato paninis be the next big dessert?

Two years after they brought Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream to Greenwood, Mandy McGovern and husband Jim are turning up the heat with a new twist on the old ice cream sandwich.

Gelato paninis.

Ice cream on bread, toasted in a sandwich press. Served warm on the outside, cold inside. Cost: $4.95.

This dish is new to Central Indiana, but McGovern said it has been in Italy for some time. Also new to the Southside: croissant doughnuts. McGovern recently started offering the trendy snacks (and don’t call them cronuts).

The new treats are perfect for Greenwood, which is fast carving itself a niche for off-beat foods.

Wuzzlers Grill and Spoon, a new pub at Ind. 135 and Smith Valley Road, blends bacon, chocolate and siracha hot sauce with ice cream. Reverie, the new restaurant at Main Street and Madison Avenue, offers fried pig tails on its upscale menu.

McGovern discussed gelato paninis, the wooden toys in the shop’s counter and the ultracompetitive ice cream business in an interview with The Star. She also noted a recent trademark agreement the shop has ironed out with Disney.

Question: What is a gelato panini? Is it kind of like fried ice cream?

Answer: It’s not fried at all. The rolls that we use are baked. The machine that I use simply heats it and seals it. There is no frying whatsoever. I thought it was a great, extremely unique idea because there’s nobody around here that does anything like it. I like the fact that it has some warmth to it so I can continue good ice cream sales into the fall and winter.

Q: You need to eat it quickly right?

A: Exactly, you need to eat it right away to get the full effect. It’s warm on the outside, cold on the inside. If you take it to go, I wouldn’t suggest driving too far.

Q: Starting a new business is always a challenge. Now that you’ve been around a couple of years, what have been some of the pitfalls or problems?

A: Weather. Weather is a huge factor when it comes to ice cream. This summer we had an extremely mild summer. When I opened in 2012 we had a drought with really warm temperatures for three months straight. We sold a lot of ice cream. This past summer with cooler temperatures and more rain, it wasn’t as good of a summer. But we’re still building a clientele. We’re still getting a lot of new people.

Q: There’s a lot of ice cream in Greenwood. How do you deal with the competition?

A: Greenwood is great when it comes to ice cream because they have something to offer everybody. What’s different here is that we are hard scooped ice cream and ours is homemade right here on the premises. It’s not shipped from the factory. It doesn’t sit in freezers. The flavors are unique. The recipes are unique.

Q: The trend in ice cream and frozen yogurt these days is to let the customers serve themselves and put on their own toppings. Why does Pinocchio’s do it the old-fashioned way?

A: I have no desire to follow the trend. I want to be full service. Let me put the toppings on for you.

Q: Have you thought about taking your ice cream out of the shop?

A: I do catering. I just started rolling it out probably three months ago. I’ve catered for a hotel, several businesses and a bridal shower.

Q: It’s just ice cream, right? Do you cater other foods?

A: Just ice cream (laughing). You don’t want me to cater other food.

Q: Tell us about these Pinocchio toys behind the counter.

A: Those wooden Pinocchios were hand carved and painted in the city of Collodi, Italy. The owners of the original Pinocchio’s went there and visited the family that originally started Pinocchio. … The shorter ones are piggy banks, and then we have two different sized wooden boys. That’s Pinocchio, the wooden boy. It has nothing to do with Disney. I’m happy to say that a few months ago Disney signed off. We will not make movies; they will not sell Pinocchio ice cream.

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