My husband has a saying, “The best gelato, is the one in your hand”. Maybe for him that’s true, but for me, the best gelato is in Italy. There is simply no place in the world that has mastered the art of my favorite dessert. Sure, you can find some decent gelato in America and throughout world, but why not go to the source?
An Italian, appropriately named Buontalento, is credited with inventing the first, true gelato dessert (around 1550). Since that time, the art of making artisan gelato has continued to grow and develop some interesting trends.
Not all gelato is the same. When you are seeking out a good gelateria, look for the words Artiginale or solo ingredienti naturale. Sometimes you can even see the extra room where the gelato is being made, like Gelateria I Caruso’s shop in Rome.
Take a look at the containers and the gelato itself. If you see simple stainless steel containers, sometimes covered with a lid, this is a good sign. I also like to see a chalkboard or hand-written sign listing the special flavors of the month. If the gelato is made in-house, there may not be as many flavors, but you won’t be disappointed.
If, however, the gelato has a garish color and is swirled up into big, showy mounds of ice-cream, move on. This is not going to be the best gelato.
You can even find a few gelato franchises that make an excellent product. Grom is one favorite that even has stores in France and the U.S. Another great spot is Emilia, with several shops in the northern cities of Emilia Romagna, near Bologna.
Sometimes it’s best to get away from the tourists to find the better gelato—but not always. Luckily, you can wander around almost any city or town and stumble upon a true gelato shop where the ingredients are fresh and there are no additives. These are the shops that are offering new flavors, using what’s fresh and local. If they offer you un assaggio, it means they are offering a sample—so taste away.
Another way to find good gelato is to check with the locals. But be ready to listen to them argue about the best gelateria—everyone has a favorite. Before my travels, I also do some research on my favorite Italian food blogs, which have helped me find some new spots in the major cities.
You can also check my Restaurant Pages on this blog for some of my favorite discoveries. Once you arrive in Italy, the best gelato will be the one in your hand.