In Italy, a land of such strict culinary customs that sprinkling Parmesan on your pizza is practically a crime, only one food is excepted from the no-eating-while-walking rule: gelato.

On warm evenings, Rome’s locals stroll the cobblestoned streets, cones and cups in hand.

Gelato made with all-natural flavors at Fatamorgana in Rome (Photograph by Alberto Blasetti, Cibando)

Gelato made with all-natural flavors at Fatamorgana in Rome (Photograph by Alberto Blasetti, Cibando)

However you eat it, gelato means Italian tradition–one that differs from industrial, American-style ice cream. Gelato contains less butterfat and less air and comes 10 degrees warmer.

About 2,000 gelaterias exist in Rome. Most use additives, thickeners, and synthetic flavors–yes, even those that call themselves artigianale (artisanal).

To gauge a gelato’s quality, ask to see a list of ingredients, says Claudio Torcè, the mastermind behind one of the city’s best gelaterias. ”Count how many additives there are. Because true gelato doesn’t have a single one.”

Torcè’s Il Gelato features creative concoctions like black sesame and chili-and-chocolate.

Natives also flock to Fatamorgana, where all-natural flavors include combinations such as pear and Gorgonzola.

For molto rich gelato, head to Come il Latte, whose name (“like milk”) says it all–fresh cream accounts for two-thirds of each scoop. Top off your Sicilian pistachio with melted chocolate or zabaglione-flavored whipped panna (cream).

This piece, written by Amanda Ruggeri, first appeared in the April 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. 

Comments

  1. Jose' Lai
    Hong Kong SAR, China
    May 9, 3:21 am

    Lovely lovely lovely.

  2. Zoey Francis
    May 8, 3:18 am

    Thank you for this article because we were planning a trip to Rome. Great content (Very informative and interesting). Now that I know where to find the best gelato; I will plan the trip “wisely”.

  3. Kait
    Rome, Italy
    April 2, 4:10 pm

    I’ve lived in Rome for years (and enjoy more than my share of gelato) but I have never heard of these, minus the chain Fatamorgana, which is OK. My favorite in the city is Gelarmony, Sicilian style gelato with canoli’s too (canoli are hard to find outside Sicily). See http://www.gelarmony.ca. I take visitors to Della Palma, near the Pantheon, for its overwhelming spread of flavors– we eat with our eyes too, and its conveniently located. See http://www.dellapalma.it/en/.

    Also, chili-and-chocolate is a standard flavor found in any gelateria– just only in the winter for some reason (it warms you up, maybe?). Or as I like to call winter: Pastry Season. Chili-and-chocolate in general, is a more common combination here than PB-’n-Chocolate and Camel-’n-Chocolate combined for candy bars and gelato alike.

  4. Piera
    Italia
    April 2, 7:25 am

    The best ice cream in Rome is in Prati area at Gelateria dei Gracchi – Via dei Gracchi, 272, 00192 Roma http://www.gelateriadeigracchi.it/index.htm you can also find flavours for allergic persons.

  5. Jerry
    New York
    April 1, 8:36 pm

    Not sure about the ingredients but TRE SCALINI in Piazza Navona used to do it for me!

  6. BJ Rassam
    March 31, 1:53 am

    Good to know the secrets behind the best gelato.

  7. Sally
    near Rome
    March 29, 3:53 pm

    Another great gelateria in Rome is just near the Maxxi museum and it is called ‘Neve di Latte’ authentic and totally natural + tastes out of this world. https://plus.google.com/101030278988353533074/about?gl=it&hl=en