It was a costly venture for him, because in those days there were neither refrigeration systems nor ice cream machines. Gatti imported the ice by ship from Norway, and drilled wells 10 metres wide and 13 metres deep in Regent’s Canal where, in an era before electricity, he was able to store the frozen blocks of ice. He also imported an ice cream machine from France, where ice cream, or glacé as it was called there, was still reserved for the rich and famous, but its manufacture was already more advanced.
Gatti’s first taste of success came when he adjusted the price of his product downwards and marketed it accordingly. He charged just a penny, and called his ice cream “penny ice”. Gatti soon had hundreds of Italian ice cream vendors working all over London, and was considered the capital’s uncrowned “Ice Cream King”.
When the 1851 Great Exhibition in London put participating products well and truly in the public eye, Gatti passed all the tests he had previously missed out on: together with Battista Bolla, he presented an automatic ice cream-making machine – what a sensation! After that, the sky was the limit for Gatti and Bolla. They opened scores of cafés, ice cream parlours, and a catering business supplying a private clientele, although their customers also included restaurants, grocery stores and hospitals. Gatti & Bolla also had a whole fleet of horse-drawn carts. In his cafés, Gatti relied on simple food with dishes from mainland Europe at moderate prices. Within a few years, the (supposedly) illiterate Swiss man became a millionaire and then a multi-millionaire!