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.
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.