When Golan Chetrit, owner of Noi Due Gelato, received an invitation to compete in the Gelato Festival World Masters, he noticed that it was being held the day before Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.
“I said, ‘I have to make something that will connect with that’,” the Israeli native told JNS. “We know how to make gelato. What we decided to do was something that represents our style Italian with a Mediterranean twist.”
Chetrit’s Upper West Side Manhattan shop was the only kosher competitor in the North American semifinals last Tuesday, and it won a chance to compete in the three-day North American finals in Hollywood in September. Should it win the finals, it would represent North America in Italy in 2025 at the International Gelato Masters Competition.
The savory “Halva Nagila!” flavor takes its name from the traditional Israeli song, “Hava Nagila.” Chetrit pointed out that it is “a celebration song, and when you taste gelato, it is a fun, celebratory experience.”
The dessert name also has a deeper meaning, he told JNS.
Chetrit combined popular Middle Eastern ingredients and flavors, including tahini, black sesame seeds and silan date syrup. Halva comes from Iran, and tahini and sesame seeds have Ethiopian and Indian origins. The tahini Chetrit uses comes from Israel and the silan from Jordan.
“The gelato base I learned in Italy,” he said. “We don’t have conflict when it comes to tahini, halva and food. I felt it’s a good story to represent Israel — where we come from and the Jewish people — because we are kosher. That’s why I used ‘halva nagila’.”
The judges were impressed that Chetrit and his team “were brave enough to come to the competition with something unusual, and that there was a story and something we stand for,” he said.
He thinks it helped that the punny (yet serious) submission had good texture and flavor, with balance Chetrit considers excellent, he said.
“We finished it off with black sesame seeds,” he said. And although some people weren’t familiar with halva, they had a new experience.
“I feel shalom, I feel at ‘peace.’ There are so many cultures linked to that gelato flavor, and I’m very proud for our community, and for Israel on its Independence Day,” he said. “We went in with a lot of confidence, and we did everything from the heart.”