So: let's start with advice on gelato, which, next to the Colosseum, is the main reason we all come to Rome, no? While I've given you a recipe for homemade gelato, this doesn't do you much good if you're visiting Rome (like so many are now and will continue to through high season in the Fall). Though Rome is full of gelaterie, not all are exactly worth your time. Below are a few general tips for eating gelato here in Rome, plus my Top 5 Favorite gelaterie to guarantee you good quality, delicious gelato here in the capital, with honorable mentions included. Enjoy everyone!
GENERAL TIPS WHEN EATING GELATO
1. Any gelateria selling brightly colored, puffy looking gelato, is to be avoided. Good quality gelato is flat with neutral colors. Example: pistachio gelato should not be bright green!
2. Unlike the U.S and many other countries, Italian gelaterie encourage you to order 2-3 different flavors (gusti) per one cup or cone.
3. Do not expect to find flavors like chocolate chip cookie dough, cookies and cream, or peanut butter cup in gelaterie in Rome -- Italian gelato flavors can most certainly be creative, but don't tend to use as many "mix ins," like candies or cookies.
4. Even if a gelateria proclaims it’s a gelateria artigianale (artisanal gelateria, implying handcrafted, fresh gelato with) don’t get too excited -- nowadays, as long as the gelato is prepared on the premise, any gelateria can call itself artisanal. So that means even if they’re using a packet powder gelato mix, with artificial colors and flavors, they can legally call themselves artisanal. Trust your eyes instead: look at the color and shape to determine what looks authentic.
5. Gelateria dei GracchiIf you're visiting Rome for the first time, you will most certainly be visiting the Vatican, and if it's high season, you will be in dire need of a gelato stop after weathering the crowds of people and long lines, all in 90 degree heat. The area around the Vatican is packed with gelaterie, but most of them sell processed gelato that spills over its containers (see my note on "puffiness" above) with overly bright colors. Take just a short walk away from the Vatican however and you'll find Gelateria dei Gracchi, an exception to the tourist attraction rule that offers the real stuff. My favorite gelato flavors here are the pinoli (pine nut) gelato paired with dark chocolate. Bonus: Gelateria dei Gracchi also makes delicious frozen cakes and other gelato based desserts that you can try out or purchase for your next dinner party. Mmmm.
Address: Via dei Gracchi 272 (Prati neighborhood)
Chocolate and pistachio meringue gelato at Gelateria dei Gracchi
4. Gelateria RetròLocated right near the Baldo degli Ubaldi metro stop (A Line, Gelateria Retrò is definitely worth adding to your itinerary while in Rome (just 3 metro stops from the Vatican!) Retrò is run and owned by gelataio Emanuele Montana, whose passion for gelato is contagious. On one of our visits to the gelateria we found him taking freshly toasted pistachios out of the oven to start another batch of pistachio gelato, which led him to (very enthusiastically) explain the importance of toasting the nuts before incorporating them into the gelato base. While all of the gelato here is fantastic, my votes go to apple and cinnamon, coconut, and of course pistachio. Bonus: in addition to making delicious gelato, Retrò also makes fabulous granita, a Sicilian frozen dessert that is a cross between a sorbet and a slushy. Try the granita al caffe' -- you'll thank me later.
Address: Via Baldo degli Ubaldi 118
Perhaps one of the most well known gelaterie in Rome, Fatamorgana is owned by Maria Agnese Spagnulo, the resident gelato expert in Rome who has transformed the gelato scene with her creative flavors -- in other words, if you want to get out of your gelato comfort zone and go beyond chocolate or strawberry, this is the gelateria for you. Fatamorgana is known for its eclectic flavor combinations, such as black cherry and beer, banana and sesame, and chocolate and wasabi. My favorite here is the baklava gelato, which is chock full of honey and almonds, just as it should be. Bonus: Fatamorgana also makes gluten free gelato as well (Maria Agnese herself was diagnosed with celiac disease and has made it her mission to create delicious gluten free gelato).
Address: Fatamorgana has various locations -- find the one nearest to you by clicking here: http://www.gelateriafatamorgana.com/web/contatti.html.
Hours: 12:00-21:30, 12:00-23:30 in the summer
Chocolate and Baklava gelato with whipped cream
2. Bar GiolittiBlink and you might miss this gelateria -- on first glance it looks like your average cafe' more suited for your morning cappuccino than anything else. Good thing then that I'm here to tell you that Bar Giolitti (not to be confused with Gelateria Giolitti in Via Uffici del Vicario) is the Testaccio neighborhood's best kept secret. Bar Giolitti was opened in 1914, which guarantees you that by now, they know their stuff (101 years gives you more than enough time to perfect your gelato recipe, no?) The fragola (strawberry) gelato here is exceptional, as is the caffè (coffee) gelato, which is not for the faint of heart -- this is pure coffee flavor, worlds away from the sugary versions you will find in the U.S, where the coffee flavor is an afterthought. Note that you must choose your gelato flavors here carefully -- the owners are known to deny you your gelato if you do not choose gelati that pair well together (example: pistachio and chocolate, yes, melon and coffee, no). Bonus: This gelateria is right near Rome's Pyramid of Cestius.
Address: Via Amerigo Vespucci 35 (Testaccio neighborhood)
1. Lattoteca ElvirinaAhh, Lattoteca Elvirina. I will eventually have to write a whole post about this place, as it really is one of my favorite spots in Rome. A bit of background: Lattoteca Elvirina sells only latticini, or dairy products, which are made from the milk of their own cows, whose photos are framed on the wall. (Not surprisingly, they seem like very happy cows). I could go on and on about how divine their homemade butter is, how fabulous their ricotta is, how perfect their yogurt is, and of course, how downright delicious their gelato is. I have most definitely saved the best for last for this post -- this is hands down the best gelato I've ever had. The texture is beyond smooth and creamy, thanks to the high quality milk they use. The flavor of the gelato itself is pure, and tastes exactly as it should -- there are no distractions. The pistachio gelato tastes exactly like a pistachio, the strawberry tastes like a freshly picked strawberry, and the chocolate is deep, rich, cocoa. In addition to dreamy gelato, there is Lattoteca Elvirina's freshly whipped cream to top it all of, which is a fluffy cloud perfection that makes every bite heavenly. The last time I brought their gelato to a dinner party for friends, there were about 2 whole minutes of silence as everyone tried to wrap their minds around the deliciousness of what they were eating. Note that Lattoteca Elvirina is technically not a gelateria, so their flavors tend to be on the simpler side -- you won't find anything too unusual here (just something to keep in mind if you're looking for creativity). Bonus: This gelateria is a two minute walk from my apartment. A bonus for me anyways :)
Address: Viale degli Ammiragli 100 (Prati neighborhood, not far from the metro Cipro).
Pistachio, strawberry, and chocolate gelato (to go) at Lattoteca Elvirina
Chocolate and vanilla gelato at Lattoteca Elvirina (topped with fresh whipped cream obviously)
To finish off the list, a few other gelaterie that guarantee excellent gelato:
La Romana, Via Ostiense 48
Fiordiluna, Via della Lungaretta 96
Gelateria del Teatro, Via dei Coronari 65/66
Gelateria di San Crispino, Via della Panetteria 42