As most of you probably already know, gelato is NOT ice cream. It's pretty similar, but more creamy and less icy than, well, ice cream. The name gelato is a form of the Italian verb "to freeze," and it typically has less fat than ice cream. Another fun fact: the plural of gelato (or double-fisting gelato) is gelati.
And for more a definition, in steps Mr. David Lebovitz: "...The machines used to make gelato move very slowly as they churn, introducing little air into the mixture so the finished gelato is dense and thick. Unlike standard ice cream-making machines, usually the 'dasher' (paddle) moves up and down while the canister turns, so little air is whipped into the mixture while it churns. Also the storage freezers used for holding gelato tend to be kept a few degrees warmer (up to 10 degrees F) than a normal ice cream dipping cabinet, so the gelati keeps its silky, creamier texture."
Thanks David; you're the best.
So far in my journeys this summer, I've tried quite a few gelaterias and have experienced mostly the good, but, sad to say, bad gelati can be found. Just like bad ice cream (think: store-brand vanilla-flavored ice cream).
So far the best was one of the most expensive. I guess you get what you pay for. Anyway, it's the gelateria a five minutes' walk from my work and humble abode. The first time I passed it, I thought, "We HAVE to try that...look at the heaping mounds of smooth gelato just begging to be eaten." To look for a good gelateria, check out the colors of the gelati, especially the banana flavor. If they're brightly colored in an artificial way, or if the banana is a yellow instead of a tan color, it's probably a good idea to skip it. It's pretty common for gelaterias to decorate each flavor of gelato with a "symbol" of it's flavor, such as slices of melon, sprinklings of nuts, or streams of caramel. It's kind of like picture books for kids; everyone can tell what it is without speaking the language.
This is a pretty good picture of what I'm talking about.
Typically you pay the cashier before you pick out your flavors. Copetta for a cup, cono for a cone. Piccola, media, or grande for the sizes. The best part is that it's normal to pick out two or three flavors, depending on what size you're ordering. Typically I pick out two flavors, and I'm pretty sure you're supposed to pick out complementing flavors, but I really just get two that I'd like to try. Maybe one day... ;-)
Gelato melts quickly. I held a friend's cup for a few minutes while she used the bathroom, and I had to lick it to keep it from melting all over my hands. Hope she didn't mind, haha.
Another favorite part of the gelato experience is the spoon you're given. If you haven't seen it before, it's a tiny little thing, akin to the miniscule forks they give out in Greece to eat french fries with.
For reference, they're about the size of your index finger.
Alright, so finally the picture of my favorite gelato so far:
I got amaretto and crema. This gelato was dense, creamy, and just delicious. It wasn't too sweet either, which can plague some gelati. The amaretto was garnished with some sort of stewed cherry, which the woman behind the counter was gracious enough to scoop one up for me. I can't describe the flavor, because it didn't quite taste completely like amaretto, but it was delicious nonetheless. The crema is by far my favorite. It tastes just like creme anglaise. I could eat that all day, which is surprising because it's not chocolate.
And this was the worst gelato I had, but ironically, the best picture of gelato I've taken so far. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.
I really love the lighting...but notice how it looks like ice cream? That's what it tasted like. Melted and refrozen ice cream.
Song of the day: