Since 2010, Morgan Morano has been quietly building a game changing business via her brand of authentic Sicilian gelato appropriately named, Morano Gelato. With a commitment to authenticity and quality, she’s taken her business from the farmer’s markets of Hanover, New Hampshire (where, full disclosure, we briefly attended the same grade school) to owning three shops along the Northeast, including one in the Chestnut Hill Mall.
The mall is an unlikely location for a store like this. Morano Gelato wouldn’t feel out of place on Newbury Street or in the South End, but it’s found a loyal following in Chestnut Hill. Shoppers and mall employees alike stream in and out of the shop as the warm staff attends to their requests for tastes, scoops and coffee.
Morano meets me outside the shop with a tall iced tea in hand. She speaks softly but with the quick talking cadence of a native New Yorker as she describes her path to success. She grew up in the New York area where her father was an accomplished entrepreneur and restaurateur. He moved the family north to the Upper Valley, but not before opening a restaurant on Fire Island where Morgan spent summers working. She bussed tables, hosted and eventually found herself stationed in the kitchen.
“I didn't like the front of the house and preferred the kitchen but because it was male-dominated they put me in the fish market, which also happened to be where the dessert station was,” Morano explains. “There I started experimenting and having fun plating desserts. It was then I knew I wanted to go to culinary school and needed to if I wanted to start my own business.”
Making good on her assertion, Morano attended the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and learned from many top chefs in Manhattan. She met an Italian man and spent the next few years travelling to and from Italy. It didn’t work out with the gentleman, but Morano’s time in the country was invaluable, shaping the way she approached food and food culture. It also brought her together with her mentor, Antonio Cafarelli, who owned a gelato shop in Florence where Morano worked, learning how to make authentic Sicilian gelato.
After a few years of living la bella vita, Morgan settled back into the Upper Valley and started selling her own brand of gelato at area farmer’s markets. She saw that nobody was producing an authentically Italian version of the frozen treat and wanted to introduce the concept stateside.
Italian gelato is a creamier, denser product that’s healthier and lower in fat than American ice cream. Morano is able to recreate this style by using Italian machines and seasonal ingredients, as well as premium imported items from Italy. She gets her pistachios from Mount Etna, chestnuts from Piedmont and sources whole milk and berries from local farms. This degree of specialization means that every ingredient won’t always be available and that flavors reflect terroir.
For example, the simplest flavor, fiore de latte (sweet milk), will taste different in New Hampshire than it will in Massachusetts because the milk is coming from different dairy farms. That’s a beautiful kind of regional nuance that you won’t find from other ice cream makers.
Morano took a small loan from her brother and best friend, Jordan, to purchase her first gelato machine and literally go to market in New Hampshire. She took full advantage of the local ingredients available to her and cultivated a regional following. By 2011, she moved into a brick and mortar space in the sleepy college town.
She started with 20 flavors and now has 220 seasonal recipes. On any given day, you’ll find 12 to 16 flavors for sale in her shops. Made fresh daily, each batch takes about 25 minutes from start to finish and her staff diligently fills the display case during opening hours.
“People are ready for ice cream at 11:00am,” Morano says. “We usually have the case filled by 2:00 or 2:30,” she says. “Nobody makes it fresh every day. Our goal is to sell out our flavors every day.”
Right now the focus is on business expansion and improving on what she’s already built. Even in a crowded market of small batch goodies, Morano’s creations stand out. And with her quiet focus and exceptional product she’s in a great position for long term success.
Chestnut Hill Mall, 199 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, 617-244-5200 & 57 South Main St., Hanover, NH, 603-643-4233, moranogelato.com