11 June 2024

La Mellabella vita: Local gelato maker heads to Italy to sweeten her skills

| Tenele Conway
Start the conversation
Woman serves gelato.

Melany Batley is the owner and chief gelato maker at Mellabella Gelato. Photo: Eunie K Photography.

When Melany Batley, owner of Mellabella Gelato, first hit the Canberra events scene with her vintage Gelato carts in late 2019, she quickly had her first lesson in “location, location, location”.

The pop-up space she booked at Regatta Point for her first outing appeared to be a great idea on paper but, in reality, it was hard to get a gelato into the hands of active Canberrans out for their morning run.

Since then, Melany has mastered the Canberra gelato market. You’ll find her gelato carts packed to the brim with small-batch gelato at every major Canberra event, as well as parties, weddings and, on one occasion, a funeral.

“Starting out, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew Canberrans would love quality gelato, but I didn’t understand the full scope of the event business. The last four years have been a wonderful surprise,” Melany told Region.

Group photo in yellow aprons

Melany spent her summer at the Gelato Naturale Academy. Photo: supplied, Melany Batley.

From spring to autumn, Mellabella Gelato becomes an artful logistics dance that ensures all the vans and carts are stocked up with flavours like their famous lemon meringue pie and salted caramel, and each makes it to their respective events.

While Mellabella Gelato operates year-round, the decreased demand for gelato in the cooler Canberra months and the exhausting undertaking of the summer season sees Melany take some time for herself and grow her gelato knowledge and skills over the winter months.

READ ALSO Five minutes with Angus Raddon, Vino Friendo

Melany took this off-season ritual to a whole new level in 2023, jetting off to experience the Italian summer for eleven weeks. Immersing herself in this 16th-century birthplace of gelato, she attended The Gelato Naturale Academy in the Tuscan town of Grosseto.

“Training with Manuele Presenti and learning alongside gelato fanatics from all around the world was loads of fun, and it reinforced that the techniques I was using back home with Mellabella were on par with what is happening in Italy. I came back from that trip with so much confidence in my business. We also got to experiment with some creative flavours like popcorn gelato with caramel fudge,” said Melany.

Cityscape of Siena

Siena was the base for Melany’s Italian gelato studies. Photo: Melany Batley.

Melany also undertook a one month language and cultural immersion in the historic hilltop Tuscan city of Siena. Staying in a local homestay and attending language classes each day was immersive but had its challenges. Melany faced a hefty communication barrier with the classes teaching Italian and the homestay family speaking a local dialect of Sienese.

READ ALSO Get in the groove at Purple Rain Cafe

This compelled Melany to extend her days experiencing village life in Siena, where she made a daily 5 pm routine of gelato eating around Siena’s medieval streets, surrounded by the historic city and its inhabitants. Through this routine, she found an unusual Mandarin and Goji Berry gelato that was one of her favourite flavours from Italy.

“Having a mission to find the best gelato both at home and overseas has given my life a greater purpose. You head out on a mission to find a particular gelateria and along the way you discover all sorts of adventures you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t set out in search of the gelato,” Melany said with a twinkle in her eye.

Ice cream cone

Melany learned the secrets of Italian gelato. Photo: Melany Batley.

This winter, Melany has planned 10 days in Japan and will be in search of the more unusual flavours that Japanese gelato is making its name on. Many of these lean towards the savoury flavour spectrum: matcha, soy, wasabi, miso, sesame and sweet potato. To burn off all the gelato before she gets home, she will spend five days walking the famous Nakasendo trail with her husband, Nathan, where they hope to discover more gelato in the historic towns en route.

Visit Mellabella Gelato’s website or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.