We weren’t twenty minutes into our conversation when Adrian Pace took out his I-phone and showed me pictures of his freezer. “Look there,” he said, touching the screen and bringing up another image of the freezer from a different angle. “Right in the middle of Stew Leonard’s. Great placement! ”
Wow, I‘m thinking. Most people show you pictures of their kids.
But this is how excited Adrian Pace is about his product, Forte Gelato, a low-fat, protein-enriched gelato. He’s Italian – that explains the gelato part – but he’s also a lifelong heart patient at Columbia Hospital where he survived half a dozen major surgeries since the age of 5, literally hundreds of smaller procedures, endless medication, loneliness - and after waiting over seven months in the hospital for a donor heart - bouts of hopelessness. He was 37 years old.
When a compatible heart was finally found, the operation was complicated and recovery was longer than usual; Adrian spent another month in the hospital before he could go home to his wife and two children in Westport.
And that explains the low-fat, protein-enriched part.
He closed the hedge fund he had managed for over 15 years when he went in the hospital in 2007, and he had more than enough time then to imagine a new career. This time, he knew he wanted to do something to help patients, specifically those who needed special foods enriched with protein and foods that were nutritious, but most of all, he wanted to make them delicious. He felt patients deserved it.
“In the hospital, I was given this ice cream-like product that had 8 grams of protein, but it had a lot of additives and it tasted awful. I tried to make milkshakes out of it,” he recalls,” but the stuff wouldn’t even dissolve!”
Thus began the dream of Forte Gelato. In his kitchen at home, he experimented with hundreds of formulas using all natural, premium ingredients. It had to be the right consistency, the right flavor, kept and served at the right temperature.
And it had to be delicious.
Trust me. I ate it. It is.
His intent was to supply hospitals, and he does. There are patients at Yale/NewHaven who say it is the only thing they can eat. “I supply hospitals at cost,” he told me over coffee (and gelato), “which is sometimes at a loss, if something should happen; there’s no margin for error, missed shipments, breakdowns…”
But something happened that Adrian did not expect: Forte Gelato has been picked up by several east coast retail suppliers including Whole Foods and most recently, as of July 24th, Stew Leonard’s where (Hold yourself back now.) you can see the freezer for yourself. Retail sales will make it possible for Adrian to make the gelato available to hospitals at a price they can afford to pay, and Adrian Pace’s dream will come true. He will be feeding delicious food to the people he relates to – those trapped in their beds who need a lot of protein because of muscle wasting issues.
Only other foodies can appreciate Adrian Pace’s infectious passion for his product, and it is intensified by the boundless energy made possible by his new, healthy heart. For the first time in his life, he is not restricted from physical activities and he practically sends off sparks.
“Gelato is a fulltime job,” he remonstrates. “You can’t have it stuck in an ice cream display case by the coffee machines. Oh no.”
Here is where I learned things about gelato.
1. The display case is rounded in a particular configuration so that the air circulates.
2. Gelato is not served from a display case with an ice cream scoop but with a gelato spade. Who knew?
3. Gelato is not scooped from front to back across the top of the product in the case, but dug from back to front so that the remaining product has that pretty swirly top.
4. It is stored and served at a warmer temperature than ice cream.
I didn’t even know that gelato is not just Italian ice cream. Gelato has more milk, more egg yolks, less cream, less fat. Gelato is denser. Ice cream can be as much as 50% air!
Forte Gelato comes packed in what he considers a perfectly portioned 4 oz container with 15 grams of protein and only 2.5 grams of fat, available in the very photogenic freezer at Stew Leonard’s.
Adrian watched me while I savored each bite of the chocolate gelato, made from Dutch chocolate, agave nectar, egg yolks, and cream. “Eat from the outside in,” he instructed me. “The flavor’s more intense where it’s a little bit melted.” He could hardly restrain himself from feeding me. Since I ended up eating both the chocolate and the vanilla, I am thinking that “perfectly portioned” might be an 8 oz container.