Meet the producers: Swoon Gelato
Bruno Forte is the star graduate from gelato university. Yes, there is a university for aspiring makers of gelato, the dreamy Italian version of ice cream, and it guided Bruno towards a successful UK business and a top national accolade for his product. But the Swoon story begins earlier, in the family trattoria.
Discover the award-winning Swoon gelato
Bruno Forte (a distant relative of Rocco) can pinpoint the moment he knew gelato was his future. “I took a course at the Gelato University in Bologna, and the first morning I was amazed by what we were making and tasting,” he says. “It was a ‘wow’ moment.” Bruno had decided to take the course after years in hospitality – running hotels in London, then back in the family trattoria in Swanage, set up by his grandfather in 1970.
“Gelato has always been in the family,” he says. “But there wasn’t a product out there as good as my grandfather used to make.”
Enthused by his training, Bruno returned to the UK and set up the first Swoon gelateria with his family in Bristol in 2016 – wife Ana- Maria, mum Louise and sister Pat are all involved – before opening two more, in Bath and Oxford (sad for anyone who doesn’t live in the vicinity but worth making a detour towards if you’re passing).
It’s been a rapid rise, which is only likely to gather pace after Swoon’s nocciola (hazelnut) gelato was named Supreme Champion
at the 2019 Great Taste Awards, where the judges raved about its “smooth and super creamy” texture and pure flavour.
It typically has 50 per cent less fat than ice cream but gelato tastes creamier because of how it’s made: slow churning instead of rapid beating, with little air incorporated.
What makes the gelato so creamy?
“Our gelato is soft and silky because we churn it slowly and keep water crystals microscopic,” explains Bruno. “A lot of ice cream is made using pastes, which are often high in additives and stabilisers. We make ours with fresh ingredients – milk from Somerset, hazelnuts from a small farm in Piedmont…”
The Bristol and Bath shops have their own gelato ‘labs’ but Swoon also has a central production site in Bristol, which supplies freshly made mix to the other shops, where it’s churned on site.
After the Great Taste win, sales increased by 20 per cent. But then Covid19 struck, closing all three outlets in March. Bristol reopened in May using Deliveroo and Click & Collect, later serving from the doorway, and Bath and Oxford got churning shortly afterwards. “We opened one shop at a time, to make sure we got it right,” says Bruno. “That first weekend, the machine went wild from the moment we opened. There were people waiting for us to open the doors, which was so good to see.”
Re-creating the fresh gelato experience in sealed tubs for
retail is trickier (“we refuse to compromise on flavour or texture,” says Bruno) but recipes have been finalised, with plans to introduce a range in farm shops and delis later this year. And Bruno’s ambitions don’t stop there. “We’d like Swoon to be on high streets around the UK – for
it to be your local gelateria.” Grandfather would approve.
How to serve a winner
Swoon nocciola gelato is sublime on its own or with a scattering of crunchy toasted hazelnuts on top and a drizzle of honey or chocolate sauce. It also matches beautifully with a dark chocolate tart or a warm fruity pudding-cake. Try it with our sticky toffee poached pear cake, or rich chocolate mousse torte.