Caravaggio, which opened this weekend in Berkeley, says it offers real-deal Italian gelato. Photo: courtesy Caravaggio

This weekend saw the soft opening of a gelateria with a difference. Caravaggio, at 1797 Shattuck Ave., a stone’s throw from the heart of Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, is as much a science lab as an Italian ice-cream store. You only need to check out those gleaming stainless steel vats and copper pipes at the back of the shop to see why.

Co-owner Emiliano Cecchetti said the reason Caravaggio’s kitchen looks more like a lab is because he takes a scientific approach to making gelato.

“It’s more work, but we have total control over our product,” he said, adding that the goal he shares with his business partner and co-owner Mauro Bernocchi is that customers have “the same experience here as having gelato in Italy — or possibly even better.”

If Caravaggio’s in-house kitchen looks more like a lab, that’s because it is. Photo: courtesy Caravaggio
If Caravaggio’s in-house kitchen looks more like a lab, that’s because it is. Photo: courtesy Caravaggio

Caravaggio, which is in the Hillside Village apartment building just north of Delaware, had its soft opening Saturday, Nov. 16, after also participating in A Taste of North Berkeley, a fundraiser for BUSD, on Nov. 12.

Cecchetti, who began planning the Berkeley venture two years ago and attended gelato university in Bologna, Italy, in preparation (yes, there really is such a place), said the frozen treat is made to exacting standards in authentic Italian style and uses all natural ingredients, and organic where possible.

One early report was encouraging: “Tried Caravaggio this evening — friendly owners, AMAZING gelato,” posted Ben Wolfe on Twitter on Sunday.

The first flush of eight flavors at Caravaggio includes Macadamia (with Kenyan nuts), Hazelnuts (sourced from Piemonte), Vanilla (Tahiti), and Chocolate (sourced locally). More flavors will be rolled out as the shop establishes itself, including vegan options.

There will be no high-fructose corn syrup in sight, nor sucrose, Cecchetti said. The gelato is also lactose-free (which is not the same as dairy free — but a line of dairy-free sorbets is on its way) and boasts a low glycemic index.

Caravaggio co-owner Emiliano Cecchetti said he hopes his new shop will take the guilt out of eating gelato. Photo: courtesy Caravaggio

The pair also want to take the guilt out of the experience of eating gelato.

“Our mantra is ‘the healthy nature of pleasure,’” he said.

If Cecchetti is the scientist, Bernocchi is the business brains. He’s also an architect and created the sky painting on the ceiling of the smartly designed new store.

As to why they chose Berkeley, and the Gourmet Ghetto in particular, Cecchetti said it’s partly sentimental and partly strategic.

“My daughter was born in Berkeley two and a half years ago,” he said. “But we also chose the Gourmet Ghetto because we believe it is likely to encourage food connoisseurs, people who would go out of their way to find something special.”

Bites: What’s new in East Bay food, XXXVIII (11.15.13)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...