As we say goodbye to spring and hello to hot summer days, it can only mean one thing, gelato season is here. Every time you step onto the streets of Rome you are guaranteed, even on your 3 minute walk to the market, to pass by a Gelateria. There is nothing more refreshing than a nice cup or cone of cold, fresh, artisanal gelato. Whether it be on your lunch break, on your way home from work, or even both, you can’t go wrong!
So gelato is just the Italian word for ice cream, right? Not exactly. There are a few differences that make this frozen treat one of a kind. Gelato starts out with a similar base like ice cream, but has a higher proportion of milk and a lower proportion of cream and eggs (sometimes no eggs at all). It is churned at a much slower rate, incorporating less air and leaving the gelato denser than ice cream. It is stored at a higher temperature than ice cream. Gelato can be made with milk, cream, various sugars, and flavoring such as fresh fruit and nut purees. It is generally lower in calories, fat and sugar than ice cream. By statute, gelato in Italy must have at least 3.5% butterfat, whereas ice cream in the U.S. contains 10% or more.
There are a few things to be mindful of when choosing a Gelateria. First things first: we’ve all walked by those huge, colorful, beautiful, mounds of gelato. Don’t let this fool you!! This can often be a sign that the gelato is industrial and NOT made with the freshest ingredients. Instead it is full of coloring and artificial flavors, whipped with lots of air that can last for days. What you really want is something made in-house, daily and with the freshest ingredients.
While one should experience as many Gelaterias and flavors as possible when in Rome, here are five shops you absolutely cannot pass up:
A Gelateria that is so much more, it’s a lifestyle. Native to Florence, Carapina has finally made its way to Rome. Simone Bonini, the founder, is considered one of Italy’s best gelatai ever and after your first visit you won’t disagree. Attention to high quality ingredients and seasonality, Simone never falls short when creating these gourmet treats.
All of Simone’s flavors are made daily which makes choosing a flavor nearly impossible. Some of the best are strawberry, because he only uses the freshest ingredient and sugar is not even in this recipe. Strawberries and water alone have never tasted so good. Apricot, and really any of the fruit flavors are especially tasty this season. If you are looking to throw a little something different in with one of the fruit flavors, try the mint. Really light in color, you can see little specs of mint throughout. It’s creamy and totally refreshing!Fatamorgana
For all you gluten-free lovers, Fatamorgana is your place. Maria Agnese Spagnuolo, aka the ice cream fairy, has been experimenting with different flavors since she was a little girl. She continues to use nothing but natural ingredients to create new variations. You will NEVER find flavoring, spice powder and essential oils, but fruits of the season, the best dried fruit, pure spices, flowers seeds and herbs of all kinds. While it requires more work to search out only the freshest and most natural ingredients, I promise it’s worth the effort. Even though Fatamorgana is a special place for the gluten-free population, it should be appreciated by everyone. If you stumble upon this place you must try the Biancaneve because “Snow White” is a Tahitian vanilla with chunks of apple and raspberry sauce, something you will only find here. Maria also has multiple chocolate variations. The Cioccolato Venezuela is sure to please any chocolate lover.
Fior di Luna
Fior di Luna Gelato was created in 1993, inspired by family tradition and science. This Gelateria pays special attention to establishing relationships with producers of valuable raw materials, allowing them to craft new solutions. Respect and innovation are the two pillars in their work. They are conscientious about minimizing the number of ingredients and techniques in order to maximize the quality. Everything is studied in detail to give back the original flavor of nature, getting sometimes unexpected effects. Let’s talk about the flavors. If you haven’t noticed, strawberry is a must-try during the summer and Fior di Luna is no exception. And what could make this yummy cup of gelato any better? Banana! Fior di Luna‘s banana is awesome, especially when it’s sitting right next to strawberry.
Gelateria del Teatro
A family-run business, you can see the gelato being made right in front of your eyes. Only the freshest ingredients are used and flavors change with the seasons. The combinations are out of this world and something you will only find at this Gelateria. Rosemary, lemon, and honey (yes all together) is unbelievable. The gelato is infused with rosemary and layered in between a grouping of honey and lemon zest. So refreshing and yummy!! Another staple of Gelateria del Teatro is the lavender and white peach flavor. Last but not least is the raspberry and sage gelato, which smells as good as it tastes.
Il Gelato di Claudio Torcè
There are many locations scattered throughout Rome. If you are looking to be adventurous in your gelato selection, Il Gelato is your go-to. Ricotta cheese is even thrown into the mix in this gelateria with Cointreau and orange peel. Crema mandorle e mandorle tostate, or almond cream and roasted almonds, is a fun one to sample. But you can always stick with the classics like Nutella. Chocolate and hazelnuts from Piedmont are a perfect combination and can you really come to Italy without eating Nutella?