Gelato in Italy

Old Jul 27, 17, 12:52 pm
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Gelato in Italy

There is an Italian gourmet food magazine called Dissapore. Since around 2013 they started ranking gelato in Italy. They have famous gelato makers travel and taste products from around the country, in a blind fashion. The magazine is considered very credible.

They just released their annual "best 100 gelato places in Italy" list. It's worth considering because it's extremely difficult to find gelato in Italy. If I recall correctly, there are about 36,000 gelaterie in Italy, and the number increases by 10% per year, making it one the fastest growing businesses in Italy. I'll provide the links to the list below.

With the tourist boom of the last 15 years most gelaterie stopped serving gelato, and switched to serving ice cream. Really, really cheap ice cream. Gelato has little in common with ice cream except they are both dairy products.

Famed Italian food author and blogger Katie Parla went out with expert gelato makers in Rome and did a survey. Based on their sampling they concluded that there are only about 20 gelaterie that still serve gelato in all of Rome, and Rome has about 3,000 gelaterie. The rest is just very cheap ice cream. The chance of finding gelato in Italy is actually pretty slim.

Ice cream is made with cream. Gelato is made with milk. Gelato shops must post the ingredients of the gelato on the wall. It's pretty easy to tell gelato from ice cream by reading the ingredients, and just as easy by looking at the gelato itself.

Ice cream sold in a gelato shop is a witches brew of chemicals. When we talk about gelato in Italy, we are not talking Ben & Jerry, or even Baskin & Robbins. Or even Costco ice cream. Some of the chemicals aren't even legal in places in the USA.

Ice cream served as gelato in Italy is made out of cream, tons of preservatives, mono and di-glycerides, pH balancers, artificial color, artificial flavor, hydrogenated fat, etc. With all the chemicals and preservatives it keeps for up to two years in the freezer.

In almost all cases it is made in a factory (like the pizza) and shipped in tubs to the gelato place. If it's an uncommon flavor you may see it in the window for months, wondering why it's not melting in the window under the sun (chemicals).

If the gelato shop advertises artigianale, or fatta in casa (home made) that used to mean something, but not any more. What those places are doing is having the cream delivered to them. In the store they add powder of the flavor they want, and artificial coloring. In other words, pistachio is made with artificial pistachio flavored powder, and green dye. Strawberry is made with artificial strawberry flavored powder, and red dye. Just read the label. By law, it must be on the wall, though they often put it in an obscure place.

Gelato is different. It is made out of just milk, not cream, plus the actual fruit or nut, and nothing else, although sometimes they put a little vegetable extract as a thickener. That's it. It keeps for a day or two, then has to be thrown out. As such, it's very dependent on what seasonal things are available.

Gelato makers are like chefs; they experiment constantly, and since it has to be thrown out every day or other day, there is generally a bunch of new flavors in the cooler every day. For example, I spent the last two and a half weeks in Rome and made sure to have gelato as my night cap almost every night, and these are some of the flavors that were available in true gelato places; strawberries, white wine, and lemon; almond, apples, and cinnamon; black cherries and beer; peaches and wine; ricotta with citrus; black rice and rose buds; Sorrento nuts and Corinto raisins; banana cream with sesame; cream with ginger, chestnut honey, and lemon; baklava; cheese cake with blueberries; Sorrentino walnuts, rose petals, and violets.

That's gelato. It's well worth seeking out the real thing. As with the very bad pizza, people generally eat the very bad ice cream and say it is the best thing in the world, but that's just the environment, atmosphere, and expectations. When someone tastes gelato, the difference is obvious.

That said, Dissapore published the ranking of the top 100 last week. #1 00 to #51

Its in Italian but it doesn't matter. It lists the name of the place, the city, initials of the region, then a number indicating how much they went up or down compared to last year (if they were ranked). They also recommend a flavor (gusto consigliato). You can see in this group there are only only about half a dozen in Rome, 3-4 in Florence, 3-4 in Torino, none in Venic (although there is one in Mestre), etc. For the most part they are all from small towns with unrecognizable names, where tourists never go.
http://www.dissapore.com/locali/100-...igianali-2017/

You can deduce from this list that as with food in Italy, with so much tourism, unless you do some checking before you go you are almost always going to be eating some poor imitation of something. Gelato is very hard to find. It's almost all cheap ice cream.

Last edited by Perche; Jul 27, 17 at 2:28 pm
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Old Jul 27, 17, 2:23 pm
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Thanks for the links. I was very disappointed when Carapina closed their shop on Via dei Chiavari, next to Forno Roscoli.

I can vouch for Pico Gelato & Otaleg from that list


A few tips to tell if a gelato shop is selling the real thing. Any yes'es and it should be a red flag
Are there 101 different flavours?
Are the gelatos brightly colored?
Is the pistachio bright green?

Katie Parla hasn't done a top list for 2017, but she has a 2016 & 2015 list
http://www.foodandwine.com/travel/best-gelato-rome

I like Gelateria del Teatro, Fatamorgana & Fior di Luna
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Old Jul 27, 17, 3:01 pm
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Originally Posted by mromalley View Post
Thanks for the links. I was very disappointed when Carapina closed their shop on Via dei Chiavari, next to Forno Roscoli.

I can vouch for Pico Gelato & Otaleg from that list


A few tips to tell if a gelato shop is selling the real thing. Any yes'es and it should be a red flag
Are there 101 different flavours?
Are the gelatos brightly colored?
Is the pistachio bright green?

Katie Parla hasn't done a top list for 2017, but she has a 2016 & 2015 list
http://www.foodandwine.com/travel/best-gelato-rome

I like Gelateria del Teatro, Fatamorgana & Fior di Luna
Fattamorgana is where I tried black rice with rose buds. Katie Parla doesn't post that much any more. She is mainly focusing on writing books, and just posts occasionally, unfortunately.
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Old Jul 27, 17, 3:08 pm
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I had my first ever Gelato in Rome 15 years ago. Sad that it's declined so much!
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Old Jul 27, 17, 3:35 pm
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Originally Posted by Jaimito Cartero View Post
I had my first ever Gelato in Rome 15 years ago. Sad that it's declined so much!
I don't think the gelato has actually declined. What has happened is that there has been an explosion of places serving cheap ice cream, which is not gelato. Spectacular gelato is always there. You just have to do a little work to find it. Just as with the food.
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Old Jul 27, 17, 3:59 pm
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Perche, there was a legendary gelateria in Piazza Navona which was known for its "tartufo",deep dark chunks of chocolate. Is it the real deal?
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Old Jul 27, 17, 4:16 pm
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Originally Posted by obscure2k View Post
Perche, there was a legendary gelateria in Piazza Navona which was known for its "tartufo",deep dark chunks of chocolate. Is it the real deal?
Obscure2k that would be Tre Scalini. They have a famous chocolate ice cream desert. That doesn't mean it's necessarily bad, but it is the famous desert of Tre Scalini, a restaurant. Just like with fettuccini alfredo, where two places pretty close to each other each claim to have invented the dish, there was a gelato place across the street that called itself the true, "Tartufo Tre Scalini." Just like the fettuccini alfredo war, that started the "tartufo war." They don't make any pretense that it is not ice cream. A good ice cream dish can be delicious.
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Old Jul 27, 17, 4:27 pm
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Originally Posted by Perche View Post
Obscure2k that would be Tre Scalini. They have a famous chocolate ice cream desert. That doesn't mean it's necessarily bad, but it is the famous desert of Tre Scalini, a restaurant. Just like with fettuccini alfredo, where two places pretty close to each other each claim to have invented the dish, there was a gelato place across the street that called itself the true, "Tartufo Tre Scalini." Just like the fettuccini alfredo war, that started the "tartufo war." They don't make any pretense that it is not ice cream. A good ice cream dish can be delicious.
Thanks. Yes, it was Tre Scalini but we didn't sit down in a restaurant to eat it. We purchased our tartufo ice cream to go and enjoyed walking around the fountains eating this decadent chocolate treat. It was, indeed, delicious.
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Old Jul 27, 17, 9:06 pm
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Oh great! One of the places in the linked list by Katie Palrla, Gelateria Dei Gracchi, Is a six minute walk from the hotel I will be staying in! OINK!
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Old Jul 28, 17, 9:54 am
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Originally Posted by mromalley View Post
Are the gelatos brightly colored?
That's the criteria I often go by. For instance, I love banana gelato but if it's bright yellow, I find someplace else.

Originally Posted by bigguyinpasadena View Post
Oh great! One of the places in the linked list by Katie Palrla, Gelateria Dei Gracchi, Is a six minute walk from the hotel I will be staying in! OINK!
It's around the corner from a hotel where I often stay, so I can attest that it's excellent and I second your OINK.
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Old Jul 28, 17, 10:05 am
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and one can always get the real thing at the vendor in mercato central in termini.
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Old Jul 28, 17, 10:25 am
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Gelato Giusto in Milan is not far from the Westin (and the part of Milan where some of my friends live) so I will have to check it out. Thanks, Perche.
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Old Jul 29, 17, 10:10 pm
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It's interesting from viewing the top 100 list that not only are the main cities not dominant, but the smaller towns are. Also the GUSTO CONSIGLIATO, or recommended flavor on the page, shows just how different real aritigiano gelato is from ice cream. The recommended flavors don't begin until the place ranked 50th, but you can see from the flavors offered that this is not ice cream such as you get in 98% of the gelaterie.

I think some people are confusing the list because there is so much Italian preamble. You have to scroll down the article a little bit to get to the list, then it lists the store, the city, and the province. For example, #1 00 is, "100 Conserve Bio | Cesena | N.E." Meaning the name of the store is 100 Conserve Bio, in the city of Cesena. Ranked #9 9 is the gelateria named Peschici, in the town of Foglia, which I think is in Puglia. The third place is Casa del Gelato, in Albania, Province of Savogna, in Liguria. The #1 best ranked gelateria in all of Italy Brunelli, is in Senigallia, province of Alcona, in the sparsely visited Le Marche region.

As you go through the list for gelato, and similar lists for food, sights, beauty, and many other things, you find that the most visited, top tourist places are sparsely represented on lists as providing the best that Italy offers. Unless of course, someone is using TripAdvisor, the blind leading the blind (a tourist coming to Rome, where there are thousands of restaurants, eating in one or two places on a two day trip, and writing that what they ate at a take out place was the best pasta in all of Italy).

It really pays to not just visit touristy places if you want to get a good dose of Italian life. Here are the recommended flavors from #5 0 to #4 0 , and you can see the uniqueness, and how it is a chef curated dish, and not just ice cream from a bin.
Gusto Consigliato
#5 0 : macadamia gelato
#4 9 : Olive oil gelato
#4 8 : Fiorone (something like a fig)
#4 7 : Orange honey with szechuan peppers and grains of noodle (which won flavor of the year last year)
#4 6 Sbrisolana (something like crumb cake)
#4 5 vanilla
#4 4 sweet milk
#4 3 ricotta with blueberries
#4 2 Aglianico del Vulture (not easily translatable. Aglianico is a type of wine made in the South, around Puglia and Basilicata I believe, and Vulture I must think is the brand of the wine.)
#4 1 Ricotta from sheep from the island of Elba
#4 0 Pistacchio

You can see that going to a real gelato place is not like going to Baskin Robbins, it is a chef's daily creation, like at a restaurant. Skipping down to the top 10
#1 0 chocolate and figs
#9 Zabaione (a typical Italian pastry filling, something like egg nog taste)
#8 Prosecco
#7 sheep milk ricotta, honey, and pine nuts
#6 tzatziki (the middle eastern dip)
#5 vanilla cream
#4 squacquerone artigianale Val Samoggia e composta di lampone della Valtellina di Marco Colzani (not an easy translation, but my take is that it is an artisanal cheese from the Valley of Samoggia, with raspberries from Marco Colzani's farm)
#3 una delle varianti sul tema cioccolato fondente (A variety of dark chocolates.)
#2 zuppa inglese, con alkermes fatto in casa (English soup, with Alkermes, a sweet dipping liquor made in house.)
#1 highest rated gelato in Italy, Brunelli, in Senigallia, Province of Alcona, in Le Marche the recommended flavor is Crema Brunelli.

I think one can get the sense from this list that real gelato is made by chefs who have to make it fresh everyday using the finest seasonal ingredients, and their imagination. It's not like visiting an ice cream store where there are a variety of tubs selling cheap, factory produced ice cream that was probably made a year ago, held together by preservatives.

Gelato is a very special thing worth seeking out, and taking time to find a place that sells it near where you are staying, which is hard to do if you are in Rome, Florence or Venice, as can be seen in the Dissapore article. There are so many tourists who don't know the difference between ice cream and gelato, so most gelato place don't bother anymore. You can see that in the smaller towns that comprise most of the list, true Italian gelato culture remains alive.

Last edited by Perche; Jul 29, 17 at 10:52 pm
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Old Jul 30, 17, 7:57 am
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Perche, first off, thank you so much for starting this thread! It is fantastic!

We loved Vivoli in Firenze. We visited several times!

I was wondering if you happened to know if Perche No? in Firenze was "the real deal" or not? Their pistachio looked so very different (nice and gritty, not smooth and bright green) from most others and we really loved their gelato and also visited here several times.

There was a gelateria near the Duomo called Carabe which had been recommended to us by the owner of the apartment we were renting. We had also seen it ranked highly on sites like Trip Advisor (which is not saying anything) and others. We probably visited 60 gelaterias in all of Italy, and that was the most disappointing of all of them. I had the frutti di bosco and I cannot recall what my friend had, but mine did not exactly taste like berries but some sort of tangent of berries. We were perplexed and thought we must have not had developed palates because it was recommended by the apartment owner there, a local, but we did not love it. Do you know anything about this place?
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Old Jul 30, 17, 8:01 am
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Also, Marco Ottaviano was one we enjoyed quite a bit and we sort of loved that you could not even see the gelato because they were in the metal bins. I assumed it was the real deal. Do you know?
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