A gelato a day - here's your guide!
Life's too short. You don't need a holiday, or a weekend, for gelato, summer, winter - why wait?
Did you know Italian gelato is made from hardly any ingredients?
- Sugar, fruit, milk, stabiliser (neutro) and eggs for certain kinds like crema, vanilla or zabaione. Aromas like vanilla can also used.
There's an art to making gelato which rarely relies on artificial ingredients. There's also a movement towards artisan gelaterie serving 100% natural (often eclectic) blends. These must be stored in sealed, frozen containers, served quickly and eaten quickly.
The culture of gelato
You still find gelaterie straight from the1970s dotted about Italy; faded photography and mirrors line the walls, swirly pastel ceilings, potted ferns and upholstered alcoves used to provide timeless Sunday afternoons spent as a family for a coppa di gelato - an ice-cream cup. There was once a sitting-down culture around gelato, especially with a coppa which always took a while to eat because they're big! 3 scoops, whipped cream, fruit, sauce and sprinkles in a coloured ice-cream glass (also from the 70s), here are some coppa classics:
Coppa Fragola (strawberry)
Frutti di bosco (berries)
Ciocco-caffè (chocolate gelato with an espresso or smothered in ciobar)
Nafta (amarena cherries) and get this - Coppa Spaghetti!
'Spaghetti' is vanilla gelato squeezed through a potato press with strawberry sauce as tomato sauce and grated white chocolate as Parmigiano cheese. It's odd and delicious, if you ever get the chance - you just must!
Gelateria fridges are divided - fruit or 'alla creme' (milk based) and then you find many a vegan and dairy-free option on the side.
Seasonal flavours will come and go but these few gelati you can always find in a traditional gelateria summer or winter di sicuro:
Fior di Latte - not vanilla, this is pure and simple, and milky (used as the base in stracciatella)
Cioccolato - traditionally made from cocoa powder
Nocciola - hazelnut
Vaniglia - vanilla
Malaga - rum and raisin
Yoghurt - white yoghurt sometimes rippled with Amarena cherries,
Fragola - strawberry - all natural, classically with no milk added
Limone - lemon with a proper zing
Frutti di Bosco - forest fruits
Quando, quando, quando?
It's completely acceptable to head out for gelato at 10 pm, when the streets still beat heat from a sweltering day. Summer hours are late and in coastal towns gelaterie stay open past midnight. During winter, most shut down from November to March unless they're more than a gelateria, like a bar, for example, and that's when you'll find the essential selection of the above classics.
Cono o coppetta? (cone or little cup?)
Top tip: check the cone dispenser!
I'm a bit fussy where the cone is concerned, if wafer doesn't cut it, ask for a cialda - it's thicker, crunchier and a perfect complement to you smooth gelato.
Top tip 2: ask for a little taste if you're undecided - that's (also) what the little spoons are for.
Top tip 3: you can get panna (whipped cream) but not sauce on a cone. Only coppetta goes with sauce and sprinkles. 'Ask for any extra bits when you place your order, not after the ice-cream has been scooped', is what a gelataio will say.
The best gelato in Italy (according to us):
When in Rome, go to Flor! Check our post AMO ROMA to see why it's up there!
Another excellent option is always Venchi, with branches all over Italy and beautiful classic flavours as well as contemporary ones.
We love an artisan company called Gelateria Flaminio in Serravalle, Vittorio Veneto. Here, you'll discover gelato taking fresh to the next level. With quirky flavours like cinnamon, lemon and basil or pear and chocolate, this stuff is taste heaven but melts quickly so mangia mangia!