FOOD IS a no-debate fact that Italy is known for internationally. A few days ago, I strolled along Garibaldi Street in Cagliari with my friend Marco. The stalls’ creative decorations were inspiring and their incredibly different kinds of gastronomic items a forbidden sight for dieters. The gleeful atmosphere was so intoxicating that it was effortless to feel joyful.
While walking, a gorgeous Italian lady caught my eyes. She has a long black hair with touches of deep red color on the ends of her strands, a set of big brown eyes that could melt any looker, together with a drop-dead mysterious smile. She was manning an interesting chocolate shop named Choco Goia.
Hurriedly, I grabbed my friend’s hand to her store, curious not only about the chocolates but also about the story of her offerings and of her own. Daniella (her name) graciously let us sample immediately a variety of wondrous chocolate flavors, from spicy to nutty, fruity, bitter, and aromatic, to name a few. It felt like an adventure of the palate in the land of spices. Truly, a gratifying experience for me and my friend.
We learned from Dani that the chocolate business belongs to her boyfriend, Ruben Pili. Dani used to restore antiques, but now she decided to help in the business of Ruben. She said if we wanted to broaden our knowledge and have more interesting chocolate experience, we should visit Ruben in his shop in the town of Nora.
The very next day after breakfast, we headed to visit one of the best chocolates and chocolate makers of the world. As we drove, we were engulfed by the breathtaking view of thousands of flamingos gathered in the lake of Pula along the highway. On the other side of the road, the shimmering majestic sea showed off its unsurpassable beauty while hundreds of shiny white lambs covered the mountain ranges. At a stroke, I was blissfully transported to the era where nature was untouched, when communities tended and cared for it. This is how the whole world should be like, I thought to myself.
To make the most out of our trip, we decided to stop by Pula. The town before Nora that prides itself for making one of the best panettone (a popular cake in Italy made only during Christmas season). We didn’t try their panettone, we tried their pizza instead in one of the trattorias in the piazza. The dough was made of grani naturali (natural grains) and the toppings of freschi ingredienti (fresh ingredients). All was “buono”. Our spirits soared to the sky.
As the freezing wind became stronger, we decided to drive to our object of destination. The roads were becoming narrower I noticed, and the houses in the village reminded me of the lovely old houses we have in some provinces in the Philippines.
Alas, we found the mine of chocolates. As we approached the shop, a young pretty lady greeted us warmly. Her name is Gioia, which means joy. The business was named after her, she said – Choco Gioia. She is the sister of Ruben – the chocolate genius. The place is prettily nestled in a quiet place in Nora. It is sparkling clean, everything orderly and all items displayed were made of chocolates. Reminds me of the Hansel and Gretel story. My friend was instantly possessed by all the goodies.
I asked Ruben if I could interview him, he delightfully consented. According to his story, his grandmother used to run a successful ice cream business in the region. When he turned 12 and Gioia, they started learning the skills of ice-cream making which was the industry of their family for generations. Ruben realized as he grew older that the ice cream doesn’t last long and the business is seasonal, so he thought of shifting it to chocolate business.
With this dream, he and Gioia went to study at the “Universita dei Sapori in Perugia,” a prestigious cooking and food school in Europe that teaches students the science of taste and tasting, nutrition, personal relationship with food, to name a few. Having a natural talent for food, plus his visual artistic side on hand, Ruben launched “Choco Gioia” with his sister who makes glorious cookies and cakes with chocolate component and other elements.
He said that they only buy their cacao from the best producers in the world, which is South and Central America, and Africa. He experimented on complex flavors, using different brilliant constituents – bringing a new twist to the usual taste of chocolates out in the market. The intricate design of each plate that he presented were too good to touch and ingest. You could spot right away how this man seriously put his mind, body, and soul in his work.
He said that to make a perfect creation, you should first be in harmony inside. Taste is not just about the ingredients. The knowledge, passion, intention, mood, right atmosphere, mind state play a major role to the outcome. It is a rewarding feeling to see everyone who comes for a unique gustation in our space – happy, satisfied, in peace, relaxed, like going to a therapy place.
Furthermore, Ruben’s dream is to create more chocolate lovers in the world. He thinks that chocolate can resolve many human issues for it improves brain function, soothes the emotion, a good medicine for stress, comforting to the soul.