“We went to Australia and opened four gelato shops. It was pretty tough. First, not having a lot of money, on the other side of the world with a big plan - your pockets are full of dreams. But dreams don’t put food on the table. We were trying to do a deal to get premises. It’s very difficult to negotiate with Australians, they take advantage of the language barrier and your young age."
“But eventually, we found the right people at the right time and we ended up opening the shop. The concept was to bring Bologna gelato, but with local ingredients. It’s almost impossible to do the same flavours in different places – the milk quality, the season…"
Casone had found success and his business was thriving against the odds, but then something unexpected happened and his visa was not renewed.
“It’s like a girlfriend that cheats on you, exactly the same. You come to a place, you bring your money, you start your business, you’re 28 years old, you have plans and then you realise, they don’t want you. And there is no ‘why’. Maybe you’ve made small mistakes, but all the good you have done counts for nothing. We were in the soup.”
So the rug was pulled out from under him and he returned home, without a plan.
“I came back home, and I began to work for a company that manufactures gelato machines and travelled the world with them. Literally travelled the world, I was away more than 180 days of the year. So I began to ask myself ‘what has the world of gelato got to offer me?'"
After the ups and downs of those years, Casone had fallen out of love with gelato.
“I was doing consulting on gelato all over the world and I just got a bit bored. I was just using the same recipes, getting lazy. Copy and paste. I was changing places every day, but the work was becoming just the same. I gave up everything over Covid.”
With Bologna in lockdown, Casone found an escape by delivering pizza. It was a way to escape the restrictions. He had the run of the city on his scooter, with no traffic. It was fun for a time, but not a long-term plan. Then he got a call out of the blue, the chance to meet with the best chef in the world, one Alain Ducasse.
“A guy I knew, called me and said ‘there’s a guy who you want to meet’. He was at the gelato shop where I had worked for a long time. There was a super-good feeling. This was my gelato home, where I had learned everything and it felt like a new beginning, things were starting to open up for me. I showed up on my scooter, wearing shorts,” says Casone. “He’s quite straight-laced, but we have a really good relationship. I’m a very casual person, I never go to work wearing shirts."
What was it like to go from pizza delivery in the back alleys of Bologna, to refining recipes with Ducasse at his Paris gelateria Le Glace?
“There are levels of knowing someone. When I met him, of course, I had his books, I knew who he was, but I didn’t know the guy,” says Casone. “There are two Monsieur Ducasses, there is the Monsieur Ducasse that is public-facing and well-known, then there is the Monsieur Ducasse that is in front of the product."
“The strictness of the guy really makes the product excellent and he is very precise. He will say: ‘Ok, for sorbet au pamplemousse, vermouth, I want 3% more vermouth, 5% less sugar’. Then you have to translate that into the recipe. He knows exactly what he wants.”
La Glace may be a Paris ice-cream parlour, run by the preeminent French chef, but Casone says that the soul of the gelato remains Italian.
“The Italian soul, in food, is to remind you of the past. For gelato, you are reminded of your first experience. When you taste gelato you are out of the world. We have a lot of clients who come to us because they want to have a safe moment, a moment for themselves. It’s like a cuddle, maybe you’ve had a shitty day, and you need that. But it’s also pure happiness, when kids eat it they are purely happy. The ice cream that we do, it can cuddle you, it can make you happy, but it can also make you think, reflect. It can make you taste and experience something new.”