Ahhh, gelato. We've had quite a lot of it over the years (although never in Italy), and we thought we had a pretty good handle on what it is. Being big fans of a good dessert, we always "got" the fascination with gelato, but we were pretty much "good ice cream... good gelato... whatever... no big difference" sort of guys.
Now that we've been to Italy – and had us a lot of gelato in the country – we really get the obsession that gelato devotees have with the stuff.
We learned a lot about gelato during our time in Italy; it's all about butterfat, sugar, temperature and overrun. Lucky for you, we're not going to get into much of what we discovered because there are lots of differing opinions regarding exactly what gelato is and what makes it different (for better or worse) from ice cream.
One opinion that Italians universally shared with us, though, is that gelato has more intense flavor than ice cream. We couldn't agree more, so we started to base our informal gelato critiques on flavor. Here's what we found at three (of the many, many) gelato shops we visited.
Every day gelato
In order to maximize our flavor sampling experience, we went to a place called Fassi with our pal, Jaime. Fassi is believed to be the oldest and largest gelateria in Italy. A woman who gave us directions on the street ensured us that it was delicious.
We went in with a brilliant strategy. We each ordered three flavors, so – via the miracle of sharing – got to sample nine. Bwahahahaha.
Okay... so we had melon, mango, strawberry, pistachio, dark chocolate, amaretto, hazelnut, chocolate hazelnut and praline. Are you drooling yet?
Bottom line, this stuff was good – like a decent quality ice cream back at home. Two surprises. First, Jaime scored by ordering the fruits, which delivered flavor that was particularly intense and satisfying. Second, the gelato-whisperer behind the counter recommended hazelnut and chocolate hazelnut in the same cup. What a good call. Words can't describe the unique flavor interplay that was produced.
See how seriously we took this tasting.
Special occassion gelato
Another day when we were wandering around Rome, we made a point of hitting a highly recommended gelato shop called Frigidarium (also recommended by our top Rome resource, Kristina). Wow, this place was the real deal. We ordered cherry and amaretto. What a treat. You can tell by looking at the picture that the consistency was just right. Similarly, the flavor profile was utter perfection.
We were buzzing through the streets of Rome after diving into this waffle cupped concoction. If we had a normal relationship with food (which we don't) we probably couldn't dig into something this rich every day. Maybe once a week.
I'm crying a little as I write this segment. Not really. But we have to make a dramatic impression to capture the experience that is having gelato from La Sorbetteria Castiglione in Bologna. Do you hear the angels?
We throw the term "mind blowing" around here every now and then. This time we really mean it. In Bologna, we were doing our random experiment, so we were lucky to find this place. In keeping with the terms of our experiment, we had a sorbetteria goddess surprise us with whatever she thought was best.
What you see below is a mix of pistachio, praline and chocolate. It was *insert naughty word here* divine. Thankfully, we both agree that the picture does it justice. You can just tell how creamy and scrumptious it is.
Seriously, look at the cone's base of chocolate gelato. It looks like (and tasted like) melted chocolate.
After this one-of-a-kind cone, we nearly crawled over the counter to open mouth kiss the woman who prepared it.
Okay... now I am crying a little. Is that normal?