Old World gelato chef comes to Irvine Spectrum Center

Master Nazario Melchionda came from Bologna, Italy, to create authentic Italian gelato at Frost.

Frost gelato chef Nazario Melchionda

I’ve devoured dozens of cups of gelato, from Venice to Florence to Rome to Sicily. And I am happy to report that a new gelato shop in Irvine is peddling the real deal. The shop is called Frost, and the Irvine Spectrum is its only California location.

“We’ve wanted to get into the Spectrum for like five years,” says Frost co-founder Jeff Kaiserman. “We feel that’s the strongest shopping center in all of Southern California. And it’s very family oriented.”

The feeling appears to be mutual, judging by the lines out the door. But then who among us has the self-control to walk past swirly heaps of creamy gelato topped with chunks of fresh fruit?

Frost gelato is made daily, from scratch, on location. There are 38 flavors to choose from on any given day. Frost will also whip you up a custom flavor as long as you order two quarts.

Gelato University

Kaiserman gives all credit to master gelato chef Nazario Melchionda, who came to America from Bologna, Italy.

Kaiserman and business partner Stephen Ochoa opened their first shop in Tucson, Arizona, in 2004 after falling in love with gelato in Italy.

Frost makes authentic Italian gelato from scratch, daily, at Irvine Spectrum Center.

“Our goal was to duplicate the same experience we had in Italy,” Kaiserman says.

So they flew to North Carolina to attend Carpigiani Gelato University (yes, there really is such a thing). Their teacher: Melchionda.

When they opened their first store six months later, they paid Melchionda to fly to Tucson and help them get through the first week. He never left.

In fact, they shepherded the Italian through the hurdles of getting an “extraordinary abilities visa,” reserved for scientists and artists and athletes, so he could stay forever. His extraordinary ability: the art of gelato.

Imported ingredients

I asked Melchionda, 70, what makes his gelato different from the rest of the field. He told me it’s like asking what is the difference between buying a frozen lasagna or making it from scratch.

Frost uses lemons for the lemon sorbet and coconut for the coconut sorbet. Cocoa is imported from Italy for the chocolate gelato. The pistachio gelato is made with pistachio paste imported from an area of Sicily with volcanic soil.

Then there’s Melchionda’s own creation – Bagigi Peanut gelato. It was crowned Best Gelato in America at the Frost gelato chef Nazario Melchionda 2018 Gelato Festival in Florida.