Located just outside the beating heart of Auckland’s waterfront Britomart district, Giapo was founded 12 years ago by husband and wife team Giapo and Annarosa Grazioli. Initially a patisserie, the business collapsed after just 3 months, leaving the Graziolis steeped in debt. But, fuelled by their unwavering belief that “ingenuity and imagination can be applied to ice cream to change its function,” Giapo has gone on to revolutionise the world of ice cream, bringing not only new flavours to the fore but redesigning the ways in which consumers go about experiencing the product. “Seeing our creations as just food is an oversimplification,” says Giapo Grazioli. “More often than not, we aim to transcend food.”

Grazioli’s commitment to constant innovation has kept the business rolling steadily forward, never settling in one rut for too long. “My favourite ice cream is always the next one that we will be creating in the kitchen,” he told R&C Magazine. “That doesn’t make me sit on what we currently have on the menu.” His vision and sense of purpose is quite remarkable, speaking more like an artist than a Chef.  We asked him where his seemingly endless inspiration comes from. “I have many heroes. I try to take a little bit from everyone I meet,” he told us. “I am mostly inspired by normal people that have dreams they have not realised yet. They are the true heroes of this world.”

This passion for people fuels Grazioli’s ambition, and it’s clear from our time together that the bespectacled chef is enamoured with the workforce he has assembled over the years, referring to them constantly as “the special people that work with me.” His appreciation for community extends beyond those in his employment to the wider New Zealand culinary scene, too. “I’m surrounded by incredible operators, both small and large,” he says. “Because of these special people, quality-wise, I would put New Zealand’s ice cream as second to none.”

Though he grew up in Italy and studied in Naples and London, the blood that flows through his business’s veins is distinctly Kiwi. Grazioli’s forward-facing approach is worlds away from the traditional gelatories of his home country, and Giapo as a business doesn’t trade in nostalgia. “New Zealand is founded on the unique spirit of ingenuity and innovation, which is in Giapo’s DNA,” he told us. “Despite being a small country, we continuously punch above our weight with a can-do attitude. This creates a culture where everything is possible, which is where a project like Giapo can thrive.”

Numerous tributes to the culture and history of Grazioli’s adopted home pepper Giapo’s fantastical ice cream creations. Customers can choose to top their selected scoops with a 3D-printed chocolate rendering of Auckland’s Sky Tower, or a colossal squid (complete with writhing chocolate tentacles), a tribute to the world’s only on-display specimen in Te Papa, Wellington. Couples can also decorate their dessert with one half each of a Pikorua, a Māori symbol of love and devotion. And Grazioli isn’t stopping any time soon. Currently, he’s developing a mechanism to introduce music into the culinary experience, “so you can play or eat an instrument whilst enjoying your ice cream.”

Grazioli’s personality is infused into all aspects of the business, not just the unusual menu. Customers frequently queue out the door for the complete guided experience, which allows them to taste every flavour before deciding what to purchase, and keeps the finished product under wraps for a theatrical reveal. It’s an end-to-end gourmet experience comparable with wine-tasting, and Grazioli is well aware that such an approach is necessarily divisive. “Giapo is not for everyone,” he told R&C Magazine. “It’s polarising for some, but the ones that get it rave about it.”

One such customer who ‘got it’ recently was pop icon Cher, who visited the store back in September 2018 after her Here We Go Again shows in Auckland. “What really topped it off was hearing that Cher thought New Zealand ice cream was better than Australia’s,” says Grazioli. “In fact, she returned in the morning for more ice cream!”

Giapo’s success is a testament to its founder’s vision and artistry. Though he has received numerous offers to franchise the business, Grazioli is, for now, staying put with just a single store, so as to maintain the quality of his products. “We want to be better for the people that get it, who have been supporting us for the last 12 years,” he says. “They are the gourmet experts of the ice cream world, who are excited by our vision. Like us, they believe that change is always possible.”

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