Darby Street gelato maker is creating a new world of classics

Whoa: The Snicker Licker offering at Monella Gelato on Darby Street. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll
Whoa: The Snicker Licker offering at Monella Gelato on Darby Street. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll

Gelato at Monella offers Willy Wonka-level indulgence.

There are the classics (vanilla, chocolate mint, raspberry sorbet). And then there’s the Darby Street shop’s signature favourites that combine additional flavours and textures – brownie chunks, mascarpone meringue, hazelnut cookie crumbs, and dulce de leche – to produce some truly amazing gelato.

There’s a nod to an old favourite biscuit with Wagon Wheelin’ (vanilla gelato, raspberry coulis, dark chocolate, vanilla cookie chunks and marshmallow) and a doughnut-inspired Homer Simpson (cinnamon gelato, raspberry coulis and cinnamon crusted donut chunks) all made from scratch using natural ingredients.

Monella co-owner and gelato master Nathan Wicken says it all comes down to – to quote Mr Wonka himself – “pure imagination”.

“Anything can spark an idea – it could even go back to the things that you liked as a kid or a biscuit that you ate,” Wicken says. “We like to take ideas like that. You deconstruct an idea and then re-create it in a way that you could make into a gelato flavour.”

A chef by trade, Wicken opened Monella three years ago with his partner Adriana Daley. They noticed a gap in the market and wanted to offer gelato done a little differently.

“Traditional styles of gelato are generally a one flavour, one element product and we figured we wanted to add layers and textures to that and make them all ourselves,” Wicken says.

“You can’t fool anyone these days – everybody is very switched on to food and everything involved – so we knew that if we did everything from scratch and built up from that, we would be able to create a really good business.”

Indulgent: Monella's Queen B.

Indulgent: Monella's Queen B.

Fun is a big focus at Monella because, as Wicken says, “that’s what it’s all about – when you think about gelato, it’s an awesome, fun experience.”

That element of fun extends to the names too: Get Your Freak On, Ol’ Dawg New Twix and Monella’s best seller: Michael Jackson.

The ‘MJ’ combines milk gelato with dulce de leche and chocolate fudge brownie chunks, forming a  combination of light and dark elements – a cheeky reference to the King of Pop.

Monella has recently launched a range of gelato cakes, including a Michael Jackson version, that are impressive inside and out. Inspired by Monella’s most popular flavours, there are five gelato cakes which are available by pre-order, and range from $35 to $85 each (check monella.com.au for serving sizes and pricing).

Fun is a big focus at Monella because, as Wicken says, “that’s what it’s all about – when you think about gelato, it’s an awesome, fun experience.”

Wicken spent 12 months working on techniques to create the cakes, playing around with ideas until he was satisfied with the end result.

The giant chocolate bar-style Snicker Licker has a flourless chocolate sponge cake base, a layer of chocolate gelato, peanut butter gelato and a layer of caramel and peanuts, is coated in milk chocolate and finished with milk chocolate velvet spray and a chocolate peanut praline disc.

Pavlova is filled with fior di latte gelato rippled with passionfruit and raspberry coulis, with passionfruit and raspberry sorbet in the centre, cased in Italian meringue and dusted with raspberry powder.

Gelato perfection: The Michael Jackson, at Monella Gelato.

Gelato perfection: The Michael Jackson, at Monella Gelato.

The Queen B has layers of chocolate and chocolate fondant gelato stacked between discs of chocolate and honeycomb chunks, with the dome-shaped creation filled with chocolate gelato and a core of honeycomb ganache that is finished with torched Italian meringue and honeycomb chunks.

Arguably the most visually impressive is the Michael Jackson. The ball-shaped cake’s base half combines vanilla and chocolate gelato, a chocolate fudge brownie disc with a white chocolate velvet spray, while the top has dulce de leche gelato rippled with caramel and a tempered chocolate top.

It’s the type of dessert you might see MasterChef grand final contestants challenged to re-create from a top chef – delicate, artistic and almost a shame to put a knife to it.

“It is sort of like that and it’s a double-edged sword because we want our cakes to look amazing and then also, when you bring them undone and cut them open, we want them to taste amazing too,” Wicken says.

In addition to the cakes and a range of choc tops, Monella is preparing to unveil another new product at the end of the month with the launch of macaron gelato sandwiches. The “colourful and awesome” macarons will be launched at the Newcastle Pride Fair Day on August 25 at Foreshore Park in Newcastle East.

Monella, 49 Darby Street, Cooks Hill. Monday-Tuesday, 1pm to 10pm, Wednesday-Sunday, 1pm to 11pm. 4926 1512.