Roman Staples. Chocolate, mint, coffee—flavors you’ll find in any ice cream aisle in America. What you’ll have a harder time finding is clementine, pistachio, panna cotta, and hazelnut. Step out on the streets of Rome, though, and into one of the many gelaterias, where you’ll see these flavors and so many more. I went on a quest this week to discover the real Italian gelato, to find out what separates the good from the iconic. I suffered through the painful testing of two flavors a day (not counting the equally difficult tasting of four other classmates’ flavor selections), for your sake, dear readers. After days of the grueling struggle to determine which vibrant flavor combinations fit best, I came to the conclusion that really great gelato has two distinct characteristics: a rich, saturated flavor, and a creamy, immensely thick texture. Imagine your favorite ice cream; take out the chemicals, infuse it with a brilliant, natural, wholesome flavor that affects every taste bud, and then churn it until it’s almost thick enough to chew yet so creamy it slides across your tongue like butter…now that’s good gelato.
The harder part is finding that perfect cup. Not all gelati are created equal: even from batch to batch you’ll have flavor variations. Within a single gelato shop, you’ll get a scoop of the richest, creamiest ice cream and a scoop of something tasty but riddled with crunchy bits of ice. Sometimes the flavors with cacao will be gritty, and sometimes you’ll get a consistency something like brownie batter before it bakes (not so terrible, but it melts too quickly!). I tell you, it was a difficult job, but we finally decided on the best gelato shop within a ten-minute walk from the school—and believe me, there were plenty to choose from.
This place was a surprise! We happened to be walking by and peeked in the window. Flavors like chocolate with rum, crema siciliana which tasted like butter mead riddled with caramelized raisins, and a dozen other intricately complex choices made the selection very difficult. Delicious, although the flavors weren’t quite as saturated as some others I’ve tried.
This is my five-star, never-done-me-wrong selection for Best Gelateria (within ten minutes of school). Their biscotti and café blew my mind, the mint was made with honest-to-goodness mint leaves, and the lemoncello made me want to sit in the sun and visualize childhoods at the beach. It’s right at the heart of the Jewish ghetto, steps from our front door, the cheapest we’ve found, and worth so much more.
Feeling adventurous? Here are some great flavor combinations from the other students:
Klaas—lemon and hazelnut
Caty—hazelnut and café
Dustin—chocolate and clementine
Ana— Cappuccino and cioccolato
Amy—panna cotta and hazelnut
And if you do manage to get through the thousands of flavor combinations, check out the wide array of sorbet and mousse flavors!
Author’s note: Every third person who’s spent any time in Rome has a distinct favorite gelato shop. There were several suggestions given to us that we haven’t had a chance to test yet. So much gelato…so little time!