Ricerca Gelateria Sperimentale opened its doors in early April of 2016 and has recently celebrated its 1st anniversary. It is the best authentically Italian gelateria in Mexico. And the first. Besides gelato (Italian style ice cream) Ricerca’s menu focuses on modern and traditional Italian pastries and cakes as well as gelato products such as paletas and composed desserts. In addition, the casual restaurant offers a variety of savory dishes: fresh pastas, soups and salads that change according to the season.
The force behind Ricerca is young chef José Luís Cervantes. Joe, as he is familiarly known, began his career working at two of Mexico City’s most renowned restaurants, Pujol and Quintonil. He has also toiled in kitchens in Paris, Tokyo, New York, Australia and most recently as part of the team at the Michelin-starred Le Calandre in Padua, Italy. Ricerca is his first venture in Mexico.
The Italian word “Ricerca” (pronounced “Ree–CHAIR–kah”) means “research, study or search.”
The chef vows to do just that. Joe recounts how the year in Italy changed his life. “The Italians really have a different way of looking at their cuisine. It seems everybody cooks, even if it’s only one or two dishes. The food in Italy is so connected with deep emotions, with personal identity. I wanted to make that part of my vision as well.”
Why a gelateria? The chef explains that, “…a really strong tradition in Italy is gelato – it’s emblematic, like a flag. We don’t have the real thing here. Oh, we have ice cream, but that’s not the same thing. I wanted to share my love and knowledge of this art in Mexico. “Making gelato really is more of a science – all based on percentages of ingredients balanced and pit against each other.”
Ricerca is housed in a sunny, contemporary space in Olivar de los Padres, a residential neighborhood in the south of the city not far from San Angel. It features an outdoor terrace, warmed by touches of rustic wood and stone, all designed by the chef himself. “At first my idea was just the gelateria, but it soon became clear that a more astute business plan would be to include ‘real’ food on the menu. There are so few options around here. This sort of trattoria and dessert/café combo is something that is happening in Italy, but is totally new in Mexico”
The menu encompasses soups – a roast tomato is sweet, and fragrantly smoky. A richer ‘crema de papa velutada con tinta de calamar’ pits squid ink with pancetta in a velvety potato cream. Composed salads include a classic caprese-like tomato salad with grapefruit gastrique and mozzarella, and a hearty bagna cauda, a dish common throughout the Mediterranean in which lightly cooked vegetables are tossed in an emulsified olive oil dressing perfumed by anchovy.
Pastas are house made and sauces (save the Italian sausage) are oriented toward the vegetarian – a rich, dark vegetable stock replaces the usual demi-glace.
Joe’s desserts make the pilgrimage to Ricerca obligatory. Sachertorte is buttery and chocolaty without losing the nuance that “sinfully delicious” chocolate-based desserts often do. A beautiful swirly round version of tiramisú takes this sometime cliché back into the spotlight giving it the dignity it deserves. Several composed desserts include gelato – La Viña is so named because both cake and gelato are based on olive oil.
And then there’s the gelato. They are churned out by a spectacular machine, made in Italy and the only one of its kind in this country, that performs the alchemy, transforming select ingredients from the mundane to the divine. Fourteen flavors are offered on rotation from classic Italian gusti like tiramisú, limoncello and fior di panna to creative and Mexican themed originals such as cacao with chile, mamey, Spanish olive oil and several fruit sorbets).
Ricerca is worth a trip to its out-of-the-way location and gelato can be packed to go. Happy anniversary!
Ricerca Gelateria Sperimentale
Avenida Toluca 1151
Colonia Olivar de los Padres, near Desierto de los Leones
Tel. 6842 0904
Open Tuesday – Sunday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (closed Monday)
(A taxi/uber from the San Angel área takes about 15 minutes and should cost no more than 40 pesos; from Condesa/Roma/Polanco, at low traffic time, about 25 minutes, 80-100 pesos)
Ricerca Gelateria Sperimentale es una nueva propuesta de gelatería artesanal en México. Se enfoca en alta repostería italiana como pasteles modernos, tradicionales, chocolatería, biscotteria y productos de gelatería en general. Se ofrece una gran variedad de platos salados como pastas frescas hechas en casa, sopas, cremas y ensaladas que cambian según la temporada.
Los gelatos, como se les llaman a los reconocidos helados en Italia, son elaborados de manera tradicional con productos de la más alta calidad, utilizando ingredientes naturales y sin el uso de semielaborados o químicos preparados. Se aprovecha de los ingredientes netamente mexicanos como cacao, chile y vainilla así como frutas tropicales. Los resultados son gelatos del viejo mundo con un toque meramente mexicano.
Ricerca proviene del italiano y significa investigación, estudio o búsqueda. Su objetivo es mantener una evolución constante hacia el perfeccionamiento de un gelato artesanal.
El chef y creador del concepto es José Luis Cervantes, quien empezó su carera en México en los renombrados restaurantes Pujol y Quintonil. Luego trabajó en Paris, Tokio, Nueva York, Australia y más recientemente, como repostero en Le Calandre, ubicado en Padova, Italia, que se ha sido galardonado con tres estrellas Michelin.