In 1937 there was no better place to buy gelato than from Salvatore De Luca’s street cart in Messina, Italy. Locals would flock to the vendor all year round, sipping on granitas and licking gelato in summer, or nursing a thick Italian hot chocolate in winter. More than 80 years later, locals still get their gelato fix from a man named Salvatore De Luca, albeit in a very different spot: Five Dock, Sydney, Australia.
Salvatore’s grandson, who happens to share his grandfather’s name, runs Cremeria De Luca. Sal, as he is better known, was born into the gelato business, having watched both his grandfather and parents open gelaterias throughout Italy. When his family moved to Australia in the 1990s, Sal’s father, Luigi De Luca, found that there was a gap in the market for artisan gelato with flavours made from authentic and local ingredients.
In 1995, Luigi and his wife Gavina opened the first Australian iteration of Cremeria De Luca on Norton Street, Leichhardt. This site closed in 2009 but the concept found a new home in Five Dock in 2013 and has been delighting visitors ever since. The entire De Luca family is still heavily involved in the business, with both Sal’s parents and his sister, Virginia, playing integral parts in its operations.
The team’s commitment to the traditional methods of gelato-making elevate the flavours beyond expectations. Every gelato that comes out of the laboratory is as pure as possible; there’s not a pre-mix in sight. Ingredients are sourced as locally as possible, with Sal and his team combining both seasonality and an Italian sensibility to present classics like Sicilian cassata, zabaglione and gianduja. Sometimes ingredients are found down the road – neighbours often drop over excess fruits to be used in sorbets.
While you might be happy with a cone or cup, it’s worth trying the Gelatoburger™. This cult product has been attracting the attention of foodies everywhere, combining gelato with brioche, panna (Italian-style whipped cream) and gianduja spread for an indulgent dessert.
Gelato isn’t all that’s on offer. The venue is also known for its traditional Sicilian icy smooth granitas, the perfect accompaniment for a stinking-hot summer’s day. Base flavours include lemon, chocolate, coffee, almond and strawberry, but the range can be combined to produce a whole host of different variations including lemon and mint, almond and rose, as well as variety of seasonal flavours.
Gelato and granita are complemented by an array of other Italian-inspired treats, including thick Italian hot chocolates for those dreary winter nights, sweet arancini and irises – fried Sicilian buns filled with Italian custard, ricotta or chocolate custard. The latter two are also available with savoury fillings, just in case you’re craving something a little different.
The Cremeria De Luca aesthetic is also inspired by tradition. Upon walking in, you’ll feel like you’ve walked into Nonna’s house – knick knacks, crystal and cutlery are all vintage finds that have been handed down from returning customers who found no use for them. At Cremeria, they can enjoy these pieces of history while also enjoying a delicious dessert, ensuring the story of each product lives on.
While innovation might be the idea du jour in the food world, sometimes there’s nothing better than a throwback to the way things used to be. Cremeria De Luca does just that, bringing a slice of Sicily to the streets of Five Dock.