As your typical American girl whose guilty pleasure is eating ice cream at 2am, I knew coming into Rome that gelato would be at the top of my foods-I-must-try-in-Italy list. Once I had that first bite of my heavenly, coffee flavored gelato on my first day here, I was hooked. Gelato now reigned supreme over ice cream in my mind.
I’ve been in Rome for about a month now, and the amount of times I’ve had gelato so far is more than I should probably admit. It’s difficult to resist the creamy, silky, deliciousness that is gelato. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Oh no, here’s another typical post about gelato.” Well I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but yes, you’re right.
So what is it about gelato that is so satisfying? Here is an infographic from Gelatissimo that I found to be pretty helpful in defining the differences between gelato and American ice cream.
Unlike ice cream, gelato is churned at a slower rate and is made with milk instead of cream. Gelato contains no egg yolks, and is stored and served at a higher temperature than ice cream. It also contains less fat and air molecules than ice cream which in my mind, rationalizes my consistent gelato consumption.
I met Cristina Rizzioli, who is the gelato maker over at Mamma Mia in the Campo de’ Fiori. Cristina is now 40 years old, but she grew up in Italy eating gelato. “Yeah, it’s a normal dessert for us. We eat gelato a lot of times. We finish every meal with something sweet.”
Gelato technically derives from sorbet, but our modern-day gelato is vastly different. According to gelato history as shown on the Gelato Museum website, “the architect Bernardo Buontalenti is credited with the egg cream gelato but Francesco Redi and Lorenzo Magalotti made it famous by singing its praises and describing its ingredients.”
Cristina spoke with pride in her voice when talking about the difference between American ice cream and Italian gelato. “This is the real gelato. I don’t use additives, chemical additives. I don’t use color. It’s real gelato.”
Back in Seattle, I could easily eat half a carton of ice cream by myself. But here in Italy, a small cup of rich, creamy gelato is enough to satisfy my craving.
On the way back to my apartment, I met Cecilia Parolini, a native of Rome who works at Punto Gelato. Cecilia also grew up eating gelato, and her favorite flavors are either pistachio, or extra dark chocolate.
Although the number of customers vary with the seasons, Cecilia gets quite a bit of business in the gelato shop. “In winter, 100, and in summer, maybe 400, 500.” Because Punto Gelato’s location is close to the Campo de’ Fiori, most of the customers Cecilia gets are tourists.
Gelato may be hyped up for tourists, but locals enjoy a tasty gelato dessert too. Cristina’s favorite flavor is mint. I still consider myself a tourist, and I will gladly get gelato at any time, any day of the year. Gelato may be richer than ice cream, but it’s healthier and consumed in much smaller portions.
When the time comes for me to head back to the states, I’ll have to scope out some more gelato shops. If anyone wants to treat me to gelato back in Seattle at The Fainting Goat, my favorite go-to flavors are coffee and stracciatella.