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At home with Gelato Messina's Nick Palumbo

At home with Gelato Messina's Nick Palumbo

With more than 1000 flavours including the best-selling salted caramel and white chocolate, Gelato Messina is often described as the best gelateria in Australia.

Founder Nick Palumbo launched the business with a single store in Darlinghurst in Sydney in 2002, and it now has 10 outlets including one off-the-strip in Las Vegas.

Traditional craftsman's techniques

Palumbo, who was raised by Sicilian immigrants in Adelaide, named the company after the small coastal city where his parents come from and uses traditional craftsman’s techniques. An uncle in Italy taught him how to make gelato using natural, quality ingredients as a teenager, so everything at Messina is hand-churned.

Gelato with a modern spin

But he has given gelato a modern spin with flavours named after pop culture figures such as fashion designers, movie stars and singers. (Think “Dulce & Gabanana”, “Robert Brownie Jnr” and "Elvis: the Fat Years”.) Palumbo has said he wants to push boundaries and “marry a high end patisserie with gelato”.

No limit to creativity

“I wanted to create a brand that used traditional craftsmanship but was flexible in the sense that there is no limit to how creative you want to be,” he says. Whatever he’s doing, it works.


Gelato Messina has been featured on Masterchef and there can be queues up to 50 metres long outside their stores whatever the weather. Married and with two young sons, Palumbo’s apartment in Darling Point in Sydney’s east is his refuge. He tells us what makes his home special.

What do you remember about your first home?

My first home was in Adelaide, where I grew up. My memories are mostly outside in the big back yard with my brother and dad; fixing our bicycles, playing soccer and cricket and waiting for the next meal to be prepared.

We had tomato vines and lots of fresh herbs growing in our garden, my mum was always cooking something delicious inside - so much so that the walls and everything in the house constantly smelt of olive oil and tomatoes!

What was your first adult home?

It was an apartment in the middle of the city in Adelaide. It was great to experience pure independence in a city that I grew up in. I created a lot of fun memories there.

What's your home like now?

It's very different to any of my previous homes, purely because of my family. I have two very young, cheeky boys that are full of life and energy. We never have a dull moment, or quiet one for that matter!

We’ve really personalised our space, so it belongs to the four of us. We’ve all collected things that we love along the way. I love Bang & Olufsen and I find myself hoarding old (stereo) equipment even though its out-dated, as I just love the look of it. My wife loves photographic works by Tom Blachford and my kids are basically collectors of Fireman Sam toys!

Do you have a favourite place in your home?

My living room and my kitchen are definitely where I spend most of my time.  Anywhere where my family congregates for celebrations, cooking and eating is where I want to be.

What’s your favourite memory from your home?

It would have to be our first New Year’s Eve there in 2014… I spent it at home watching the fireworks with my boys and wife.

What makes a house a home?

Family and loud, screaming children. As much as I like my surroundings minimal and uncluttered, I do love seeing their little toys and things that make them happy strewn around the living room.  Without my family, it would not be a home.

What’s the best thing about coming home?

Coming back to my family and the view of harbour. Both remind me of how lucky we are to live in the most beautiful city ­– Sydney. 


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