Affogato offers perfect antidote to Las Vegas’ sizzling summers

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It doesn’t seem a coincidence that affogato has the same number of syllables as elemental. It’s just two classic ingredients, but it’s a great way to help deal with the blast furnace that we affectionately call summer.

“It’s the quintessential simple dessert,” said chef Angelo Auriana, a founder of The Factory Kitchen at The Venetian. “One scoop of vanilla gelato, one scoop of espresso. You pour the hot coffee over the gelato. And the magic happens.”

Auriana remembers one recent large dinner party at The Factory Kitchen in Los Angeles, where participants couldn’t decide what desserts to order. Finally, one woman asked, “How about if we order an affogato for everyone?” Problem solved.

While it’s not on the menu at The Factory Kitchen, it will be at its upstairs sister restaurant, Sixth + Mill Ristorante-Pizzeria-Bar, when it opens next month. Jorge Luque, the restaurant’s pastry chef, said it’ll be available with caramel, banana, chocolate or pistachio gelato as well as vanilla. Other variations include adding a shot of amaretto, whipped cream or hazelnut brittle.

“Affogato” means “drowned” in Italian, representing the gelato in the espresso, but various ratios can be used, which is why it’s sometimes considered a dessert, sometimes a beverage.

“What people usually do is order ice cream, and our ice cream is a very generous portion,” said Florian Etienne, general manager of Cipriani at Wynn Las Vegas. “When the espresso comes to the table, they enjoy to put a little scoop of ice cream in their coffee. Most of the time it’s something that isn’t planned; people just have our signature ice cream and it comes organically. They make it and it’s just delicious.”

At Eataly at Park MGM, affogato is on the menu at the gelato counter, said general manager John Trockel, and they provide a few hundred servings a week on average.

“This time of year, it’s very big for us,” he said. “Adding a little espresso to pep it up and get a little caffeine in the body usually works pretty well.”

Traditionalists, he said, stick with fior de latte gelato — cream, sugar and milk — while more adventurous guests may go with hazelnut or pistachio.

“I wouldn’t lean to one flavor being the overwhelming champion,” he said. “Some of our guests even do a shot of liqueur over it, like sambuco or amaro.”

Linda Caccaro, owner of BellaLinda Gelataria Italiana at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, said because affogato wasn’t popular when she opened her shop three years ago she would recommend it to customers, but the popularity has grown.

“We always suggest the classic version with vanilla, but we give other options such as caramel, hazelnut, tiramisu, coffee, chocolate, stracciatella (vanilla gelato with chocolate shards) and cappuccino (sugar-free),” she said. “For people who don’t want too much caffeine, we use espresso Illy decaf. We can add whipped cream, chocolate/caramel syrup and some toasted hazelnut on top.”

Auriana and Caccaro stressed the importance of using good-quality gelato and espresso, and all of the restaurants say they make them in-house. At Mercato della Pescheria at The Venetian, executive chef Nelson Berrios said while affogato is not on the menu, they get requests for it three or four times a week during the summer. Vanilla and chocolate are the most popular gelato choices, he said.

Auriana seems to side with purists.

“The real recipe goes a long way,” he said.

“It’s like a little dessert and coffee at the same time,” Berrios said. “It’s awesome.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or
702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.