'I could make some pizza dough,' says neighbour Joe.
'I think George will take care of that. He's become quite the expert on making large quantities of pizza dough. You know, what with having a wood-fired oven and all...'
I'm inviting Joe and his family to what is fast becoming an annual event for neighbouring houses - a Christmas pizza party at ours. Okay, so it's only the second one, but I think it’s going to stick.
'I don't want to impose, but the gelato you made last year was excellent. If you really want to bring something, what about that?'
When the day for the party arrives, George fires up the oven. He makes enough pizza dough to feed the whole street and beyond. I lay out slow cooked passata, marinaded artichokes, mushrooms, prosciutto and all manner of pizza toppings, ready to be placed on the pizza dough.
When everyone arrives, they come bearing gifts. Cookies and cream cheesecake. Copious bottles of wine. Homemade cards. Flowers. A sugo bottle filled with chocolates and decorated like santa. Dip and crackers. And gelato. Six different flavours. We quickly tuck these into the freezer.
There are many willing little helpers who assist with pizza production in the kitchen. I send them out one by one to George, who is yielding the long-handled pizza padle like a pro. We mill about, eating pizza slices and salad on paper plates. There’s plenty to drink, but Mario's homemade moscato is a hit, and he has to run home to get a second bottle.
There's nothing like food and alcohol to oil the wheels of neighbourhood conviviality - and the kids are bonding too. There are ten of them on the trampoline, and their laughter and screams reverberate down the street.
Soon after, we bring out the gelato. Conversation stops. Seasonal fruit and good quality ingredients, lovingly tended into a mixture of creamy bliss; mango, raspberry with a dash of fresh mint, passionfruit, yellow peach, cantaloupe (we debate as to why it is also called rockmelon), and divine chocolate. I swoon. The combination of berry and mint flavour has me speechless.
Joe says he learnt to make gelato when he was a student in the '80s, working at Carlton’s Casa del Gelato. Joe remembers 'hoodlums' in their hotted up cars performing burnouts in front of the shop, while a large crowd of people waited patiently in line to order their gelato. People would knock on the shop window at 3am, pleading for more ice-cream, but the staff were too exhausted to work any longer. He remembers serving a young Tom Cruise chocolate, vanilla and strawberry gelato one night - and being promised free tickets to his upcoming movie Top Gun. He says he's still waiting.
Soon after, our son makes a beeline for the freezer. He pulls out the last of the gelato. Without speaking, we take four spoons and polish it off, right out of the tub. And then we go to bed, sated.
(plus bonus tips on how much to spend when choosing an ice-cream maker)