A Quick Guide to Italian Gelato
How to Spot Real Gelato in Rome
Gelato is a year-round indulgence in Rome but, with the rising summer temperatures, gelato season really kicks off and gelaterias seem to pop up on every corner of the city. Unfortunately, the majority of the city’s ice-cream shops serve a poor imitation of real Italian gelato, preferring to save time and increase profit by selling fake concoctions of powders, colorings, and flavorings, as opposed to the real deal made with fresh ingredients. But how do you know what is good and what is bad? Take a look at the Local Aromas handy guide to finding great gelato in Rome.
First, watch Foodie Sisters in Italy, Benedetta and Valeria, as they tell you what good Italian gelato looks like.
The principal aim of fake gelaterias is to get people through the door, so often more money is spent on location than quality. Whereas real places will often be hidden down smaller side streets, away from the main drag, the fake ones know that a prime position will ensure a constant flow of tourists. Just like when looking for good places to eat in Rome, taking a detour from the busy roads will reward you with value and excellence.
Many gelaterias in Rome entice punters with vividly-colored gelato, aimed at catching your eye as you pass by, but this is a sure sign of imitation gelato. Natural flavorings will produce natural colors so look for muted, sludgy tones, particularly in flavors such as pistachio, check for seeds and chunks of real fruit, and avoid anything blue! The use of fresh ingredients also means that the flavors of real gelato, particularly the fruit, should follow the seasons.
Authentic Italian gelato is slowly churned so it contains less air and has a dense texture. This gives is a weightiness and a thick, creamy appearance. Making real gelato is time-consuming so fake gelato will generally be whipped up with artificial powders which make it fluffier and lighter. The chemicals involved also keep the gelato puffed up without deflating so beware of immense mountains of gelato covered with decoration, the real stuff will usually stay under the level of the container and have an altogether more simple appearance.
If you’re in Italy during the summer, stop for a refreshing taste of granita, an Italian ice dessert.