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Ice-Cream Team Savors Oddono's Chocolate: London Kids (Update1)

(The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Bloomberg.)

By Erika Lederman

Aug. 24 (Bloomberg) -- It's a tough summer assignment. Yet in the spirit of fair and accurate journalism, I journeyed with seven children to deepest South Kensington to verify persistent rumors among ice-cream aficionados that Oddono's in Bute Street serves up probably the best scoops in London.

The shop, opened in July 2004 by homesick expatriates Marco Petracchini, 30, and Christian Oddono, 35, along with two silent shareholders, boasts that its equipment and ingredients are imported from Italy.

``I felt there was a need for an Italian ice-cream parlor,'' says Oddono, head of research at London-based independent equity- research company Actinvest Group Ltd. ``I decided to open one.''

Among the seven panelists I assembled for a trip to Oddono's stark, no-nonsense parlor, there was a wealth of experience. These tough tasters had been to such creamy meccas as Marine Ices in Chalk Farm, with its family-friendly vibe and huge helpings, and Morelli's in Harrods food hall that offers Murano glasses and bespoke service with flavors from mushroom sorbet to gorgonzola.

Some jury members were discerning veterans of forays to celebrated parlors as far afield as Roskilly's in St. Keverne, Helston, Cornwall, and La Maison Berthillon, an artisanal glacier on the Ile Saint-Louis in Paris.

Chocolate Fan

The team was an international crowd consisting of two Americans, four Australians and one Briton -- four boys and three girls -- and they ranged in age from 3 to 10. Each sampled two flavors piled onto one cone to maximize variety, and to follow through on the bribe to get them there.

Despite strict instructions to not duplicate, Jed, 7, and Milo, 6, who are best buddies, surreptitiously flouted the rules and ordered in duplicate -- a bold combination of cinnamon and lemon sorbet. Dom, 3, overwhelmed by the choice, chose two scoops of chocolate, simply because, ``I like chocolate.''

The collage of flavors arrayed before us in the display case imported from Italy included 15 choices of ice creams and sorbets. Of these, 10 are classics and on offer at all times. The five remaining flavors change daily, and range from green apple and fig sorbets to ricotta and basil ice creams.

To be clear, this is gelati, a light Italian-style ice cream that has little in common with the hard stuff likely to be found in the frozen-food section of your supermarket. What also sets Oddono's apart is that it's not cloyingly sweet.

Kara, 10, proclaims the hazelnut the ``best ice cream I've ever had.'' Even Zoe, a waiflike 8-year-old, who, I am told by her mother, is not an ice-cream fan, quickly finished her combination of strawberry and stracciatella (chocolate chip). ``Mmmm, very good,'' she opines as she pops the final morsel of the cone's tip into her mouth.

Sicilian Pistachios

What makes this ice cream exceptional is the quality of the ingredients. Most come from Italy -- pistachios from Sicily, hazelnuts from Piedmont. ``We use only the freshest ingredients with no colorings, no flavorings or preservatives,'' says Petracchini.

Oddono, who has lived in London for 11 years, discovered that he and Petracchini, a manager at Starbucks, both pined for authentic gelaterias. The two returned to Italy to attend a two- week gelati-making course. They then spent five months working in gelaterias throughout the country learning the trade before opening Oddono's. The business is registered as Oddono's Gelati Italiani Ltd. in Warlingham, Surrey.

Petracchini claims that they sell over 150 kilograms of gelato on hot sunny days at 1.50 pounds a scoop at the small shop, where a large picture window overlooking the manufacturing process allows fascinated kids to watch the churning gears. There are also insulated containers for takeout service.

Clearly, word is spreading. The partners were recently approached by Selfridges Plc, the London department store, and opened a concession in the food hall there last month.

Oddono's, 14 Bute Street, London SW7 3EX, call (44) (20) 7052-0732.

To contact the writer of this article:
Erika Lederman in London at
Last Updated: August 24, 2005 04:49 EDT

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