Gusto, Gusti, Gelato!
I’m allergic to the cold. Except when it comes to gelato. I wouldn’t want to live in a city where it snows, and I sometimes struggle with California winters despite the mild chill. But even during the coldest Italian months, I will not turn down gelato.
I should probably emphasize that “real” Italians don’t eat gelato in February. They savor it during hot summer evenings and largely let the tourists have at it the rest of the year. I had one conducting research with me anyway, though I suspect I was just his excuse to go on a gelato binge pre-spring season. (That’s right M, I’m calling you out!) For this post, we sampled myriad gelaterie (gelato shops) in February and March – when it was still cool, so we wouldn’t be fooled by hot weather into thinking everything was absolutely delicious. Well, ok, the weather shouldn’t have been a massive determining factor in my list ranking, but I’m trying to justify eating gelato in the winter months. Let’s be real though: one shouldn’t ever have to justify eating something so delizioso, regardless of what month it is. (Italians have many foods specific to a holiday or time of year, by the way, but let’s not dive into that today.)
Gelato is delicious. ‘Nuff said. Traditionally, you select 2-3 flavors…or more, if you’re feeling really ambitious. A single flavor is a gusto, and two or more flavors are gusti. Three or more flavors make gelato (though a single gusto is still technically gelato). During the research period, we had gelato at all times of day: midmornings, early afternoons, late nights. Here are my top picks for Rome. They aren’t the only gelato shops I’d point you to, but they’re the ones I’d instinctively mention and they’re all situated in great spots within cute neighborhoods. But first…a quick photo break. Yum!
1. Il Gelato di San Crispino
M and I agree on this being our top contender. It’s a deceptively humble establishment as far as decor goes. It’s nothing fancy, and it doesn’t have an artsy gelato display like most others of its kind; but what else would you expect from an artisanal gelateria that does everything organic and preservative-free? My top picks are Il Gelato di San Crispino (honey-based), Crema allo Zenzero e Cannella (ginger and cinnamon…subtle and deeee-lish!), and Cacao con Rhum (chocolate and rum). It’s pricier than other spots, but worth every euro…did I mention this is one of my fave gelaterie based on taste alone? There’s a branch by la Fontana di Trevi, but as you might imagine, that location may require some patience. I like the one conveniently around the corner from Piazza della Rotonda (where the Pantheon is).
Gelato, pastries, and more gelato! It’s near the Parlamento, so the surrounding streets may be blocked off at times; you should fearlessly walk around the blockades because it’s worth it. Try the Opera, Zabaione, Cioccolata Bianca, and Gnuttela.
3&4. I’m struggling with this one. It’s a tie between Portofino and Delle Palma. The former maybe wins out for taste and the latter wins for for variety. Either way, you’re a winner!
It’s down the street from Old Bridge Gelateria, which is another popular locale to visit; but one familiar with the area may point you to Portofino instead. Their display is beautiful, and the shop is on a street with a lot of other cute boutiques…makes for great strolling while eating gelato! It’s just outside Vatican City, so you can pop over either before or after you round the museums. Try the Biscottini, Portofino, Cassata Siciliana, and Nutella.
Gelateria Della Palma
One entrance is an onslaught of chocolate (impression upon first sight: Ooh!) and the other opens up to one of the largest displays of gelato I’ve ever seen (impression upon first sight: Oooooooh!). The chocolate section alone is impressive. This is probably one of my top picks for recommendations (but know that it’s also a little pricier). They have all sorts of flavors you won’t typically find elsewhere, and even if it weren’t for the myriad gusti, the selection is still delizioso. Out of all the gelaterie I’ve visited in Rome, this place seems to have the friendliest staff. It’s conveniently near the Pantheon if you need a geographical point of reference.
5. Gelateria Artigianale Corona
This is in the Largo di Torre Argentina area, heading toward Trastevere from central Rome. You can look out over the ruins across the street as you eat your gelato, or watch a chalk artist drawing on the pavement just outside. Try the Mango, Malaga, or Marronata. The Cioccolata con Prugne e Rhum and the Cioccolata con Arancia weren’t quite for my tastes, but M ranks this spot number 2 on his list.
So far, we’ve been talking about Rome, but I’m going to cheat a little and step outside the area for an additional three gelaterie.
Bar Caffetteria Paolessi, a.k.a. La Baffona (Sorry, no website.)
This one is in a little town called Cisterna di Latina, just outside Rome. I can’t leave out a locale from the paese where I lived all too fleetingly. This is a family-owned place that started with a father who passed the shop on to his son, who expanded business. Locally called La Baffona, it’s known by all the townsfolk. Frankly, I’m surprised at a) how good the gelato is, and b) that it’s actually known outside of Cisterna. Try the Mr. Nico, Panna Cotta, or Variegato alla Nutella.
Gelateria de’ Medici
Buono! This one is in Firenze. It’s a teeny shop a distance from the main tourist area and the centro storico, but it’s well worth the walk. There’s often a bit of a line out the door, but it moves quickly. Mandorla e fichi and canella are my picks. Stroll toward il Giardino della Fortezza nearby; you can sit and linger over your dolce there if the mood strikes.
This one is in Sorrento. If you’re heading to la costiera amalfitana, do look it up. You can walk around the historic center as you enjoy your gelato. Make your way waterside and look across the blue expanse toward Vesuvio. This renowned gelateria is visited by celebrities and tourists alike, and its proprietor has made cakes for popes past. Its walls are plastered with photos of famous smiling faces (including De Niro). The gusti –sourced from local ingredients to make uniquely Italian flavors that taste oh, so good– are sought out far and wide. Still need convincing? Their chocolate fondant won last year’s dark chocolate gelato award. My flavor pick, however, is the Spagnolo. If it’s your first visit, you’re likely to be impressed by the selection. Should you feel compelled to try all the flavors, I certainly wouldn’t stop you.