I literally had gelato twice a day while traveling through Italy.
Gelato is a way of life in Europe. It is an affordable, sweet treat that is both delicious and good for you! Use your treat as an opportunity to interact with locals while also expanding your vocabulary. Because are you really going to order the same gelato flavor over and over again?
Gelato has a way of bringing people together. Everyone can grab a cone and take a break in an open area. You socialize with your group or start up a conversation with those nearby using gelato as the ice breaker. Enjoy each other’s company.
It’s Good For Everyone
Gelato is milk-based, but only has 5-10% butterfat compared to American ice cream which can be 20-30%! It’s made with natural ingredients and churned at a slower speed, being filled with less air and less ice crystals, which accounts for its creaminess. The flavor is more intense so you don’t need a lot, so those lovely tiny cones are exactly the right size.
Due to gelato’s lower butterfat content, it makes it edible for even the lactose sensitive (like me!)
How to Choose the Right Gelato Shop
So now that you know the difference between gelato and ice cream, it’s important to find the right gelato shop. Many shops, especially those in the touristy places, pump more air into the gelato and use powdered flavors instead of fresh, all natural ones. You want the real thing. Look at the…
Never buy gelato that is piled high above their containers. Real Gelato with fresh ingredients won’t stay cold and fresh that way, so it must mean that the gelato has had a lot of air pumped into it. Look for gelato that is flat in it’s cooler.
Look at the color. If it looks unnatural, then it probably is filled with artificial flavors. There are three common flavors that will help you identify a bad gelato shop. Find these first to help make your choice.
- Banana – It should be an off white color. If the banana gelato is yellow, back away and leave.
- Pistachio – It should be an earthy green. If it’s bright green, it’s not the real deal.
- Mint – It should be white. If it is green, it’s an impostor.
Once you find the perfect shop, now you can choose your flavor!
There are several variations that are considered “vanilla-y,” plus several others that are mild and creamy enough to complement many other flavors.
- crema (KREH|mah) – Means “cream,” but is a custard flavor. It’s a little bit like vanilla, but not as sweet. It’s a more eggy custard flavor, as opposed to a milk custard.
- vaniglia (vah|NEEL|yah) – Vanilla. Suprisingly, not very popular in Italy. Perhaps because there are so many other kinds of flavors to choose from.
- panna cotta (pahn|nah|KOHT|tah) – Cooked cream, not like crema that is custard-egg based.
- formaggio (fohr|MAD|djoh)- cheesecake. I’ve read that it can be made with cream cheese or other cheese, like Parmesan. I would ask first how it’s made.
- cocco (KOH|koh) – Coconut. Can taste like fresh coconut at one shop and like toasted coconut at another. If you feel confident with your Italian ask!
- caffè (kah|FEH) – Coffee. Need I say more?
- cioccolato fondente (cho|koh|LAH|toh fon|DEN|teh) – Dark chocolate. It is always darker, sometimes nearly-black in color.
- cioccolato al latte (cho|koh|LAH|toh ahl LAH|tay) – Milk chocolate.
- cioccolato bianco (cho|koh|LAH|Bi|anco|- White Chocolate
- cioccomenta– (cho|koh|LAH|MEN|tah)- Chocolate Mint
- cubana– (Ku|BAN|a) – Chocolate Cream with Coffee
- bacio (BAH|chyo) Translated as “kiss”, this flavor is named after the famous Perugian chocolate. It is a mix of chocolate and hazelnut, a great alternative for Nutella fans!
- cioccolato all’arancia (cho|koh|LAH|toh ahl|ah|RAHN|cha) – Chocolate with Orange. If you enjoy those chocolate oranges you’d get at Christmastime then this is just right. It looked dark in the case when I saw it, and decorated with candied orange peels.
- banana – (bah|NAH|nah) – Banana – check the coloring for freshness (off white, not yellow)
- pesca (PEHS|kah) – Peach
- albicocca (al|bee|KOH|kah) – Apricot
- pera (PEH|rah) – Pear
- limone (lee|MOH|neh) – Lemon
- lime (LEE|meh) – Lime
- arancia (ah|RAHN|cha) – Orange
- mandarino (mahn|dah|REE|noh) – Mandarin orange
- tarocco (tah|ROH|koh) – Blood orange
- mela (MEH|lah) – Apple
- fragola (FRAH|go|lah) – Strawberry
- lampone (lahm|POH|neh) – Raspberry
- mirtillo (meer|TEEL|oh) – Blueberry
- amarena (A|MAH|rena) – Cherry
- frutti di bosco (FROO-tee dee BOHS-koh) – Fruit with crema, like blueberries and blackberries.
- melone (meh|LOH|neh) – Melon, typically cantaloupe
- cocomero (koh|KOH|meh|roh) or anguria (ahn|GOOR|yah) – Watermelon
- ananas (AHN|ahn|ahs) – Pineapple
- mango (MAHN|goh) – Mango
- pistacchio (pee|STAHK|yoh) – Pistachio – Check the color (earthy green, not bright green)
- mandorla (mahn|DOR|lah) – Almond
- nocciola (noh|CHYO|lah) – Hazelnut
- castagna (kahs|TAHN|yah) – Chestnut.
- noce (NOH|cheh) – Walnut
- disaronno (dE|sa|RO|no) – amaretto-flavored with an almond taste (My Favorite Flavor!!)
- frangelico (fran|JELL|ih|koh) – hazelnut-flavored liqueur enhanced with flowers and berries.
- champagne (cham|pa|gne) – more of a sorbet really. Light with a bit of citrus flavor.
- tiramisu (tee|rah|mee|SUE) – A delicious coffee and cognac combination.
- malaga (mah|LAH|gah) – Caribbean Rum with raisins.
- cantucci (kahn|TOO|chee) – Almond cookie flavor, flavored with a sweet wine.
- zabaione (zah|bah|YOH|neh) – A lightly whipped eggy custard flavored with Marsala wine. If you like the crema flavor, you’ll enjoy this with a bit of sweet wine.
- limoncello – (limon|chell|o) – lemon flavored with a bit of sourness. Flavored after the popular after dinner digestive.
- zuppa inglese (TSOO|pah een|GLEH|zeh) – This means “English soup.” Don’t worry, it’s made with a base of crema and sherry, with either bits of cake or cookies mixed in.
Gelato flavors that stand all alone. They are flavors created with local foods, fruits, and modeled after the countries inside jokes and novelties. This, by no means, is a complete list as every town and corner can have their own creations; but it’s a start.
- menta (MEN|tah) – Mint – Check the coloring for freshness (white, not green)
- stracciatella (strah|chya|TEL|lah) – Vanilla with chocolate flakes. This is the Italian version of chocolate chip ice cream. (Hubby ordered this wherever it was available!)
- caramello (ca|ra|mel|lo) – Caramel
- torrone (toh|ROH|neh) – Nougat
- cannolo siciliano – Flavored after the famous Sicilian cannoli
- cookies (COO|keez) – Cookies and cream
- riso (REE|zoh) – This is rice, but it’s really rice pudding.
- liquirizia (lee|kwee|REE|tzee|ah) – Licorice, as in black licorice.
- cannella (kah|NEL|lah) – Cinnamon. It is not hot: just a nice cinnamon flavor.
- puffo (POOF|foh) – In Italy, the cartoon Smurfs are known as “Puffo,” so this gelato is bright blue like the characters. I asked and the shop said that it’s flavor is like bubble gum.
Not that gelato could be any more fun than it already is. Try new combinations to create some fun flavors.
- Fruits like apple, peach, and pear go great with cinnamon – tastes like a pie!
- Chocolates with liqueurs, coffee, or nuts always pair well together.
- If you can find lime, try a refreshing lemon-lime combination.
- Or try going with a plan: A citrus (lime, lemon, grapefruit), a grassy flavor (mint), and something nutty (walnut, coconut, cashew).
- Have fun with it!