Somehow, during my last visit a couple weeks ago, I managed to spend two nights in Rome without tasting gelato, and despite giving Gabe a hard time ever since, he did not allow Katherine or me to have Gelato outside of Italy. My first taste of Italian Gelato came our first night in Pisa from a small place called De Coltelli (www.decoltelli.it). The gelato was delicious, creamy, rich, naturally colored, and perfect on a warm evening. I still remember starting with pistachio and chocolate, and then going immediately back for strawberry and peach. I am someone with an ever-present sweet tooth and a constant craving for diary (despite being a bit lactose intolerant). Therefore, ice cream and gelato always seem like the perfect snack. In the “The Docle Vita Diaries”, Cathy Rogers and Jason Gibb describe Italian gelato.
“Why is ice cream so much nicer in Italy? I mean, isn’t it just milk and then stuff that you can get anywhere like nuts and chocolate? Is it, like the coffee, something to do with having fancy machines that just do the job better? Or is there something they’re hiding? Because you go into one of those awful British or American places and the ice cream is just horrid by comparison – vulgar, crude, not even tasting of what it’s mean to. The Italians aren’t averse to the odd horrid flavour – a bright blue one named after the Smurfs that tastes of nothing on earth, at least nothing this side of Belgium– but at least it seems they’re choosing to do it, rather than doing it because they don’t know better.”
As an American talking gelato, I feel obliged to at least briefly discuss some of the differences between gelato, ice cream, and sorbet. I will start with good ice cream, and by good ice cream, I mean the kind that doesn’t use condensed or powdered milk. Good ice cream is made with fresh cream, eggs, and natural flavors. Ice cream is also overrun, which means that air is whipped into it, and the more overrun an ice cream, the softer and lighter it will be. Some ice creams even have extra air added to it; however, these ice creams would no longer fit under my category of “good” ice cream. Gelato, on the other hand, holds a minimal amount of air, and this accounts for its high density. As far as differences in recipes go, gelato will usually include more egg yolks and milk, and a little less cream. The fat content of gelato, because of the reduction in cream, is less than that of ice cream; however, because it is less overrun, it still maintains that very rich and creamy taste. Finally, sorbets are just fruit, sugar, maybe some lemon juice, and water, the amount of which can control the intensity of the sorbet.
Gabe is taking me on a gelato tour of the best spots in Rome in between visiting his favorite churches, plazas, and vistas around the city. We have already begun this journey, and will continue it when we return to Rome before traveling to Sicilia. I will rate, rank, and record this avventura del gelato upon its completion.
“Italian ice creams tastes so good it almost manages to convince you that it’s good for you.” -Rogers and Gibb