So. Much. Gelato.
10 days and five-ish new pounds later, I’ve successfully ate my way through Italy. We ate more pizza, pasta, and pastries than I can even recall, but Italian gelato was definitely a food highlight of the trip for me!
I’ve loved gelato ever since discovering it in Germany about 20 years ago. It’s so amazingly good when done right. I love the soft and creamy consistency combined with the bold flavors (thanks to the lower butterfat content, or so I’ve been told).
Anyhow, all gelato isn’t created equal and we found some that was fantastic as well as some duds during our time in Rome and Naples/Sorrento. Apparently there are some cheats that use powdered mixes instead of fresh ingredients! As soon as you take a bite, you can tell what you’ve got. Here are some of our favorites.
Rome Favorite: Fatamorgana
Fatamorgana was near the hotel where we were staying, and we went nearly every day (sometimes twice a day). The gelato is fantastic, but there is a lot of great gelato in Italy so that isn’t what makes this place special. The reason I loved them is their creative and delicious flavors. Imagine combinations of flavors you might never have considered making into a dessert, but that are fantastically good. Some of my favorites included:
Thought: Pink grapefruit, ginger root, horseradish, and carmelized lemon
Thumbelina: Sorrento walnuts, rose petals, and violet flowers
Seadas: Pecorino sardo (yes, the cheese), chestnut honey, and orange peel
Everything I tried there was amazing, and I tried a lot of gelato here. This was also the place I discovered that gelato should always be topped off with a nice scoop of whipped cream. Yum!
By the way, despite my love for all their creative flavor combinations, the plain-old strawberry gelato here was the best I had in Italy. It tasted just like fresh strawberries.
Naples/Sorrento Favorite: Fresco
The citrus-scented streets of Sorrento are what dreams of Italy are made of. After the chaos and crowds of Rome and Naples, the calm and beauty of this city is what we needed. As we were leaving an inlaid-wood music box shop, we were tempted by some free samples from a nearby gelato shop called Fresco and were not disappointed.
The gelato was made fresh. The flavors were, once again, creative. The servings were generous. And the owner of the shop was standing behind the counter, serving up the creamy-deliciousness himself.
Check out this gelato-goodness:
I went with Honeycomb (yes, the cereal) and Frutti di bosco (mixed berries).
Naples/Sorrento Honorable Mention: Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea was pretty good and was the only gelato place in Sorrento I went back to twice. They had a fantastic fig-flavored gelato that still makes my mouth water. The double chocolate was pretty amazing as well. My only beef with them is that the service wasn’t great. Maybe it was the fact that they had cream, didn’t offer it to me, and when I noticed it wouldn’t give me any because they’d already handed me my cone. Boo!
Rome Honorable Mention: Gelateria Polo Nord
On our last day in Italy, we stayed over in Fiumicino near the airport. It was a Sunday evening, and went out in search of my last taste of gelato before heading back to the States. The first thing I noticed about the area was that everyone was Italian (rather than tourists). There were a handful of gelato places, but only Gelateria Polo Nord had a line and a crowd of Italians gathered out front, enjoying themselves and filling up on gelato.
It was the perfect way to end the trip, and since I had been in a gelateria at least 10 times in the past week or so, I was finally confident enough to order my gelato in Italian…with “panna!”
Ordering gelato in Italian like a pro
If you find yourself in Italy, here are a few vocabulary words that might come in helpful when ordering your gelato:
Please = prego
Cone = Cono (KOH-noh)
Cup = Coppa (COH-pah)
Small (usually 1-2 flavors) = Piccolo
Medium (usually 3 flavors) = Medio
Large (usually 4 flavors) = Grande
Whipped Cream = Panna (yes, get the cream!)
Thank you = grazie!