Ice creamery is a dreamery

Gerardo Perez-Pisarra and his wife, Ana Orselli, are passionate about putting only the freshest ingredients into their hand-crafted ice cream.  And they don’t take any short cuts. From start to finish, one flavor takes 10 hours. Then it ages for at least four hours.      - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Gerardo Perez-Pisarra and his wife, Ana Orselli, are passionate about putting only the freshest ingredients into their hand-crafted ice cream. And they don’t take any short cuts. From start to finish, one flavor takes 10 hours. Then it ages for at least four hours.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

An Argentinian couple turn out fine flavors at a Day Road production facility.

Few experiences bring a rush of happiness like a taste of ice cream.

Creamy or tart, cone or bowl, it is, as Voltaire wrote, “exquisite.”

Ice cream also transcends cultures, something Argentinian transplants Ana Orselli and her husband, Gerardo Perez-Pisarra, hope will make their fledgling venture, Mora Iced Creamery, a sweet success.

The production facility is on the island, but for now their hand-crafted ice cream is sold only in Bellevue Square.

“Mora was born on Bainbridge and is being raised in Bellevue,” Perez-Pisarra said. “We tried hard to find the right retail location on the island, but it is not that easy. That is the only reason we went to Bellevue.”

The goal, he added, is to do well there and open a second store on Bainbridge as soon as possible.

The couple acknowledge that, yes, there are many ice cream establishments – but none are like theirs.

“We’re not saying we are better, we are really different,” Perez-Pisarra said. “We age ice cream the same way cheeses and wine are aged...for at least four hours at low temperatures, so all the flavors integrate and settle for the velvety texture.

“Everything is really fresh, nothing is artificial. It’s lighter than ice cream.”

Their business goals are to “preserve small and local farmers, preserve the old recipes and bring family and friends around the table,” Orselli said.

The locally grown berries come from Remlinger Farms in Carnation and Charlie’s Produce, while all of the dairy products are from Smith Brothers. Whatever can’t be obtained locally is still the highest quality, Orselli said.

Special touches define the ice cream-making process. Raisins steep in rum for at least four hours. Pistachios are roasted before they are used. Rich Belcolade Belgian chocolate is chopped by hand. The cones are imported from Italy and Argentina and a gluten-free variety is available.

Summer is about fruit, Orselli said, so they have 10 sorbets now. Winter will introduce more richer flavors with chocolate and nuts. Sugar-free ice cream and sorbet are in the development stage.

The couple had been thinking about making ice cream their business since the 1990s. In Buenos Aires, Orselli was a painter and her husband was involved with his family’s grocery store chain.

When they decided to leave their chaotic hometown three years ago, they traveled to the Seattle area to see if life matched what Perez-Pisarra had seen on travel programs.

When they stepped off the ferry in Bainbridge, they felt like they were home and made the move with their two daughters.

Before leaving Argentina, the couple was told Americans were very traditional and wouldn’t be open to trying anything new.

In reality, Orselli said, “They want to try different flavors.”

Mora’s gleaming Day Road production facility produces 20 to 25 buckets (2.5 gallons each) a day. From start to finish, one flavor takes 10 hours.

There are no short cuts. Every orange and lemon used for sorbet is hand-squeezed and put through a juicer.

“The sorbets are as natural and vibrant as the fruits themselves,” Orselli said.

They are almost apologetic about not growing and crushing the mint leaves, which are imported from Italy.

“We cannot make the extract from the leaves. It’s extreme,” Orselli said. With a nod toward her husband she added, “Sometimes he wants me to.”

The couple and their production staff – Ja’nae Wohlman and Dennis Harris – are putting in long days, but Orselli said working together is one of the best things she and her husband have ever done.

In addition to helping make ice cream, Perez-Pisarra trucks it to Bellevue two or three times a week. Orselli performs production duties and oversees the shop.

The coddling that go into the making of Mora ice cream extends to the care customers receive at the store, from the comfortable surroundings to the urging of more samples from the servers.

“We are taking a lot of care with the product. Our focus is not to make a profit right away,” Perez-Pisarra said.

They’re grateful that Orselli’s parents are here from Argentina to manage the household and watch over their granddaughters – Emmy, 14, and Luli, 11 – while they get their company going. They’re also appreciative of the support from their neighbors on Rosario Place.

“They are taking care of the kids and helping us promote our product,” Orselli said. “They say it’s nothing. Everyone here is so supportive, so caring and so respectful. We really feel hope here on this island...and at home.”

* * * * *

Fine flavors

The care and coddling that go into making Mora ice cream extend to the store, which is located on the second level of Bellevue Square, near Nordstrom. The spacious corner site has a light, bright ambience. Stylish wood tables and comfortable chairs invite customers to sit and linger over their selections, which is exactly what the owners want.

Yes, you can find chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, but don’t overlook the other flavors. Specialties include: dulce de leche; maraschino cherries cream; Sabayon (egg and marsala wine custard); gianduja (hazelnut chocolate); marron glace (French chestnut); Italian chocolate (chocolate ice cream with walnuts, shaved chocolate and cognac); mascarpone; Swiss chocolate (chocolate ice cream with swirled dulce de leche, shaved chocolate and chocolate liqueur); and banana split. Seasonal flavors include Mora (blackberry) and cantaloupe.

A lighted glass display features Mora’s own tarts and brownies ($4.50 apiece); crustless sandwiches (a pair for $3.90); and bottled Perrier. Cones (from $3.90) include Belgian, waffle, cake, bowl and gluten-free. An array of toppings – from fresh fruit to homemade raspberry sauce – is available. The gorgeous parfaits ($7.50) are popular with couples.

Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Don’t be shy about asking for samples.

For information about ordering ice cream straight from the factory, call 855-1112. Prices are 25 percent less than in Bellevue.

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