Culture / Restaurants

Best-Friend Entrepreneurs Open a New Worldly Dessert Shop in River Oaks

First Paris, Now Houston

BY // 08.25.16

Who better to launch a business with than your childhood bestie? Nearly 15 years ago, Paolo Benassi and Cristiano Sereni took their lifelong friendship to new heights with the launch of Amorino Gelato Al Naturale. The duo debuted their first location in Paris in 2002, hoping to introduce the French to true gelato Italiano.

Fourteen years later, Amorino has expanded to include more than 150 locations around the world, with outposts in cities such as Abu Dhabi, Atlanta, Chicago, Dubai, Luxembourg, Munich, New York, and San Francisco. Houston joins the Amorino pack with its first gelato boutique in River Oaks District (next door to iPic Theater).

It’s the District’s first stand-alone dessert shop — though Amorino Houston owner and Parisian Nathalie Debbouzi quickly explains that Europeans don’t restrict gelato consumption to dessert (yes, gelato for breakfast is a thing.) She and her husband, Sebastien, who are friends with Benassi and Sereni, relocated to Houston from Paris.

“When we were in Paris, my kids loved gelato. I would take them in the summer and after school. When we decided to move to Houston, the opportunity to open an Amorino presented itself,” Debbouzi says. “The people here are so friendly, and there’s so much going on here. Amorino will give Houstonians something they’ve never had here before.”

Expect pure, certified-organic gelato and sorbet, made with fresh ingredients. In fact, Benassi and Sereni are so serious about quality control that they produce all of Amorino’s offerings in Paris and ship the products to their outposts around the world.

The sorbets, which are vegan, utilize flavors such as mangos culled from India; fresh coconut from Sri Lanka; pistachios sourced from Turkey; and lemons from Naples. Gelato flavors include vanilla from Madagascar, Amarena custard swirled with black cherries from Italy (a must-try); chocolate from Ecuador; dulce de leche; hazlenut from Piedmont, Italy; and biscotti mixed with Speculoos.

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Whether consumed from a cup or waffle cone, Amorino presents each frozen serving in an Instagram-worthy rose, which can be topped with house-made whipped cream or a gelato-filled macaron.

Also on the menu are Belgian waffles and crêpes (which can be topped or filled with gelato and chocolate sauce); sorbet drinks and milkshakes; handmade pastries; and a full espresso and coffee menu, which includes offerings such as the espresso frappe (an espresso shot blended with vanilla or coffee gelato), herbal teas, and hot chocolate infused with flavors including coconut, caramel, hazelnut, and orange cinnamon.

Amorino officially opened today in River Oaks District at 4 pm.

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