On our first trip to Europe in 1990 we met a very nice man on the streets of Florence while we were looking for a restaurant. Roger was a retired teacher from Yonkers, New York and was teaching English in the city while getting back to his Italian roots. He was very kind to show us around his adopted city, pointing out places to eat, a secret carving in the side of a building, and the best museums to visit. And even though it was December, he had to take us to his favorite gelato shop. It was our first taste of this frozen Italian treat and we’ve been on a quest to find the best Gelato in Italy ever since.
What is Gelato?
Gelato in Italian literally translates to frozen but more commonly refers to the Italian version of ice cream. It differs from a north American version in that it has more milk and less cream than we are used to and no egg yolks. It is also churned at a slower rate and served at a slightly higher temperature. This all makes gelato denser and smoother than hand dipped ice cream. Because there is less milk fat, the flavors coat your mouth and seem brighter and more intense.
What are the traditional flavors of Gelato?
When you visit a gelateria and see the words gelato artigianale, you can be sure they have used the freshest quality ingredients. But what flavor should you choose? Here are the most traditional:
· Fiori di latte – A very simple custard, no vanilla. A true test of a great gelateria!
· Stracciatella – Fiori di latte with small, crunchy shavings or bits of chocolate. My personal favorite!
· Pistachio – Especially popular in Sicily
· Hazelnut – Especially popular in Piedmont
There are also a host of fruit flavors such as lemon, strawberry, raspberry, and frutti di bosca, a mixed berry flavor that is always fun! Of course with modern makers trying to stand out you can find espresso, tiramisu, zabaglione (made with sweet wine), or anything else you can dream up!