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Photo: Maria Liliana Biondo
Mandorland gelato from uGOgelato.
A local gelato artisan is one step closer to a trip to Italy that will name the world’s best gelato.
María Liliana Biondo of uGOgelato at Findlay Market recently won third place at a gelato competition in Chicago, one of four North American regional challenges being held in 2023 as part of the Carpigiani Gelato Festival World Masters competition. She, along with two other competitors, will now advance to the semi-finals in Los Angeles in September.
The competition is part of a four-year-long series of challenges to find the best gelato across five continents. It began in 2022 and will culminate in the final global competition in Italy in 2025.
At the Chicago competition, Biondo placed third with her “Mandorland” gelato creation, which features “a base made out of natural almond, toasted almond and bitter almond, 70% Venezuelan chocolate, blood orange glaze, almond nougat and finishing with an orange zest spray,” according to a press release.
“I created this flavor called “Mandorland” because ‘mandorla’ means ‘almond’ in Italian, and Sicily is the Land of Almond,” Biondo explained to CityBeat
. “I wanted to [fuse] my Sicilian heritage with my Latin American culture … It is a multisensorial experience and you will be discovering the multiple ingredients while you enjoy this gelato.”
Because the base of Mandorland is made with almond milk and the chocolate is free of milk proteins, it’s fully vegan, says Biondo, who specializes in making plant-based gelatos at uGOgelato.
Biondo says she has been involved in the gelato business since she was a little girl because her father was also a gelato chef.
“I grew up playing in his gelato lab, and funny to say that, eventually, the playground became my lifetime passion. I do have gelato shops back in Caracas where I grew up, but they are under my parents’ and my brother's care now. I'm no longer involved. However, the very first day I put a foot in this country, I dreamed about starting my own little gelato shop and continuing somehow the tradition,” Biondo said.
That dream landed in Findlay Market after Biondo visited Cincinnati in 2014.
“The vendors, the colorful buildings, the visitors, the different odors/flavors, the whole atmosphere was mesmerizing. It reminded me of European street markets. After that visit, I always dreamed of being part of the Findlay Market and becoming another vendor,” she said.
uGOgelato opened its doors at the market in April 2022 and operates as a year-round gelato shop specializing in seasonal flavors that Biondo makes in non-vegan and vegan options. And her daughter is now learning on the so-called “playground.”
“Today, my toddler, Giulia. is playing and having fun in our gelato lab on Elm Street, just like I used to do.”
uGOgelato, 1733 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. More information: ugogelato.com.
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