What You Need to Know About Gelato, Italian Ice Cream

Popping into a gelateria while walking the streets in Rome seems to be the rightest decision to take in life. There are two undeniable reasons for that: it does cool you off in summer and not less importantly it has a truly delicious taste. 

Italian gelato is incredibly popular both in the world and in Italy. Yet this is a different kind of ice cream. How is it different? Firstly, it is normally handmade. Secondly, the ingredients and temperature are different. True gelato is less frozen and tends to melt slowlier. It is also healthier and has less calories. However, in order to find delicious Italian gelato you should know how to distinguish between gelato and usual ice cream, because, unfortunately, not all of the gelaterias serve the same. Well, it won’t be difficult, just try to resist the temptation to jump into the first colorful gelateria with lots of full and frothy containers on your way. 

Here are some tips on how to choose gelateria and gelato in Rome. 

1. Check the Name of the Shop

The place with gelato is usually called something like "Gelato Artigianale". By putting this name honest gelateria owners mean that their gelato is handcrafted and made at this very place. However, a good marketed name doesn’t equal perfect gelato, so, let’s peruse further.

2. Real Gelato is Only 10% Higher Than the Container 

All these seducing and colorful “clouds” you see in the “gelateria” in the most crowded streets are meant to seduce tired and innocent tourists to buy ice cream of lower quality. So, try not to fall for this. Take your time and you'll be rewarded with the best dessert ever!

3. Italian Gelato Can’t Look Too Glossy, Too Whipped and Creamy

These are the tricks to catch you as quickly as possible into the net of buying. However, real gelato looks mat, simple, 10% higher than the container borders maximum or better covered with a lid.

4. Authentic gelato is also relatively heavy

Even one ball of gelato has feasible weight in your hand. Frothy and big, but lighter ice creams are not what we are looking for. 

5. Good gelato doesn’t melt immediately

If you get a cone and it starts to drip right away that’s a bad sign. Perfect gelato is not as frozen as cheap ice-creams, but it takes its time to start to melt.

6. Gelato is not Greasy 

Something else, which is hard to check before you actually buy it is that good Italian gelato is not greasy. Authentic Italian ice cream has pleasant watery consistency and is much lower in calories than usual ice-cream.

So, now when you have the idea about how things work, don’t hesitate to explore Roman gelaterias! This delicious substance is something you won’t get enough of and you will be surprised at how much you can actually devour. At least this is what happened to me.

PS. Remember, the rule of thumb for gelato lovers and café/restaurants connoisseurs: always keep off of a bitten track and go where Romans hide in the shadows of small streets and where gelato is accurately concealed by opaque container lids. 

Ice Cream Historic Overview 

Before we get to Italian gelato, let’s have a quick look at the origin of ice cream in Europe and America.

Nobody knows for sure where ice cream was initially produced in the world. Some say blends of ice and fruit existed in Persia in 400BC, others state that it is China, which is the motherland of this special dessert. We also know that Emperor Nero had prototypes of ice cream by mixing the ice from the nearest mountains with fruit juice. 

What we know today is that Catherine de’ Medici presented ice cream to France when married Duke of Orleans in 1574. Her chefs had recipes of flavoured ice and sorbets. French aristocrats were swept off their feet by this fantastic specialty and for a long time kept its recipe a secret. But the secret was revealed and in 1674 Nicolas Lemin published the first recipe of ice cream in Lery's Recueil de curiositéz rares et nouvelles de plus admirables effets de la nature. Then much later we find ice cream recipe in London in Mrs. Mary Eale’s Receipts in 1718.  

For a long time ice cream was the prerogative of the mighty and wealthy since the production of this unique specialty was very labor consuming and expensive. Imagine how hard it was to get ice before the refrigerator came into people’s everyday life. 

They say that the true popularizer of ice cream was also Italian - Procopio di Coltelli - he opened the first ice cream café in Paris in 1782. Unbelievable, but this café still exists and is very popular till these days.

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