A unique Italian gelato dessert comes to the U.S., courtesy of a Birmingham native
It’s taken nearly five years for Divino to make its way to the United States, but it’s safe to say it was worth the wait. Get familiar with the name of this Italian gelato sorbet, rebranded and launched by 29-year-old Reed Cataldo, who grew up in Birmingham and graduated from U of D Jesuit High School.
Divino is a handcrafted gelato-filled fruit made in Southern Italy in the Amalfi Coast, where the fruit is sourced. After cutting the fruit in half to scoop out the pulp and make the all-natural gelato, it’s put back into the fruit.
“It’s already a unique experience, but you can actually bite into it, which makes it even better,” Cataldo says.
Most flavors include the name of the city where the fruit comes from, including: Amalfi Lemon, Roman Kiwi, Apulian Peach, and Ciaculli Tangerine.
While the product might be new to you, the concept has been around for more than 80 years. The idea was originated in 1926 by Angelo de Angelis, who wanted to impress his diamond-loving fiancé. So just as a jeweler might set a diamond, he placed a scoop of Amalfi lemon gelato back into the fruit’s skin, and it was a natural fit.
The creation really became famous in 1962 after first lady Jacqueline Kennedy visited the Amalfi Coast and fell in love with the product. President John F. Kennedy requested de Angelis’ presence — and his dessert — at the NATO base in Naples. At the time the product didn’t have a name, but after Kennedy asked what de Angelis’ name meant, he told him, “Of the angels,” to which Kennedy replied, “How divine!” And so, Divino was born.
Even though Cataldo’s family is Italian, he didn’t travel to Rome until he was a college student at Loyola University Chicago. After the trip, he was motivated to bring an Italian product back to the U.S.
After graduating, Cataldo played professional soccer in Europe, and eventually moved to Milan. There, he met his future business partner who convinced him to move to London to help with Divino. At the 2012 London Olympics, Divino was launched as the official supplier to Nike for their VIP house during the Olympics.
But Cataldo says the goal was always to launch the product in America. Last February, he brought 3,000 boxes of Divino to New York City and sold every last one in just two and a half days.
“We ended up selling everything to about 30 different Manhattan suppliers,” he says. “We sold the European flavor offerings we had like strawberry, apricot, a small peach, walnut, and chestnut.
“Imagine a walnut; it’s the size of two quarters,” Cataldo says. “The walnut’s skin is too hard to eat, but it’s basically a palate cleanser with two small spoonfuls.”
The brand now uses larger fruits to provide bigger serving sizes for its U.S. market.
Whole Foods’ New York and San Francisco locations have already started selling the product, but it’s available nationwide on williams-sonoma.com and locally at Papa Joe’s Gourmet Market — it’s just a matter of time until other Midwest locations jump on board.
For more information, go to lovedivino.com.