Adriano di Petrillo is one of the lucky few that gets to live out their childhood dreams, as he brings the first truly authentic Italian Gelatoria to Dubai.
Staring out of the window as a child, while growing up in Italy, the view that greeted Adriano di Petrillo every day was that of his local gelateria. Obsessed with this delicately frozen delight, Adriano would spend most days, either after school or between classes, indulging his pleasure or staring painfully through the window.
But as Adriano grew up he put aside his childhood dreams, and turned his thoughts to business and commerce. He spent several years living in New York, Boston and London, accumulating 12 years of experience in marketing, business development, management consulting and general management.
Adriano began his career as an integral part of the original team that built the Parmalat business from inception to $800m, through a serious of acquisitions of dairy companies across the country. Today, Parmalat is the leading global company in the production of long-life milk.
In 2003 Adriano joined Value Partners, the leading management consulting firm in Italy, and worked on several projects in the media/telecom field. After former Gucci CEO Giacomo Santucci joined the firm, Adriano focused on the luxury goods practice and worked on several projects for all major Italian fashion brands.
In 2006 he became managing director at Art Partner, the top fashion talent agency in the world, representing artists like Mario Testino, Mert & Markus, Mario Sorrenti, etc. But despite his successes in the corporate world, Adriano knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur and not an employee his whole life. When he saw friends travelling to Italy and regaling of the gelato they had tried, his Eureka moment struck and he realised the opportunity to bring his favourite gelato to the world.
Following his lifelong passion, Adriano opened his first store on Portobello Road in London, which was soon followed by a second in the Chelsea Farmers market, as well as a few portable pop up kiosks.
In creating the Dri Dri brand Adriano, known to his friends as Adri, played on his nickname. And what was born out of passion just a few years ago, has developed into an international business today.
Building on the success of his UK operations, Adriano then successfully turned his brand into a franchise, and with his sights set on Dri Dri becoming a global brand, a store in Sao Paulo was his next step. “My idea was always to make the brand global, and at that time the Brazilian economy was booming, the weather was conducive to my produce and I had a few contacts on the ground.”
Adriano was later enticed to bring his franchise model to Dubai, again following a booming economy and conducive weather. With the first store on The Beach proving so popular, the next logical step was expansion, and so Adriano decided to go mobile. He imported a 1950s Piaggio Ape van and converted it into a portable gelato stand, first for JBR and followed by a second unit at Boxpark on Al Wasl Road. A third is being finalised for use at the RIPE markets and for private events like weddings and birthday parties.
Furthermore, Adriano is planning more stores for Dubai and Bahrain, with a plan to develop across the GCC within a year. “There is a big appetite for this concept here and there are some large operators willing to take on the role and the brand.”
Adriano stresses that franchisees must buy into his concept and high standards, which includes only the freshest ingredients. “We select only the best quality fruit, with mangoes coming from India, strawberries and passion fruit coming from Kenya, raspberries and lemons from Mexico, and bananas and pineapples from the Philippines. The whipping cream is French, but the whole milk is sourced locally from Almarai.”
He adds: “Naturally, the fruit is seasonal so we change our flavour range every two to three months. Most of our ingredients are traceable, with Sicilian pistachios, cocoa beans from New Guinea, hazelnuts from northern Italy and vanilla from Madagascar.”
It is the milk, however, that differentiates a gelato from an ice cream. The typical Italian method of preparing gelato is with a mantecazione, which freezes the mix while slowing churning, so it absorbs no air. Ice cream, which is mostly cream, is churned at a fast speed, absorbing a lot of air, which makes the product less smooth and creamy.
“Because of this churning process a gelato is tasty without the fat or calories,” says Adriano. “In fact a gelato has around 6-8% fat compared to 18-34% in a Ben & Jerry’s,” he adds.
Furthermore, a Dri Dri gelato contains no additives, like the typical stabilisers and emulsifiers found in ice cream, which improves its quality but shortens its lifespan. For this reason, fresh gelato is made in store every morning and with a very delicate icing point, it must be carefully temperature controlled between -30 and -40C, depending on the fruit used.
All of the recipes were created by Adriano, with a little help from his childhood hero, the owner of the gelateria opposite his parent’s home in Italy.
Each store is deliberately light and bright, with colourful children’s drawings adorning the walls, to create a sense of wellbeing and happiness. Furthermore, the concept is very family focused with a dedicated children’s area and workshops where groups of kids can learn hands-on how to make gelato themselves.
“Dri Dri is where passion meets business, to deliver a truly artisan approach to our produce with an organised business model, which can be replicated seamlessly without any background knowledge,” says Adriano.
He adds: “We manufacture all of the store components ourselves and can open a new store with 45 days of signing the lease agreement, and once open we continue to support with our onsite training.”
Aside from rolling out across the entire GCC, Adriano also has plans to extend the brand into retail products, sometime in the future.