3 Tips to Find the Best Possible Gelato

Cucina con Luca!

I dare you to name a better dessert than a truly well made cup of gelato. I’ve tried a lot of gelato in my time, from the classic stracciatella to the more decadent flavors, like nutella or cioccolato, and the zesty varieties, like coco or limone. I’ve even enjoyed some of the more adventurous creations from wonderfully innovative gelaterias, such as a ricotta flavored gelato.

Once, while in Florence, my group of friends went back to the same gelateria three times in one night. Talk about a walk of shame.

But as with anything, there is a spectrum to be aware of when you are planning to indulge in such a wonderful dessert. A poor-quality gelato experience is enough to dampen any spirits and bring a rain cloud to any sunny day–a day when you should be enjoying real gelato. So, here are a few tips to discern the quality of the gelato you’re about to buy.

  1. Look at the pistachio-flavored gelato.
    Is it bright green? If so, walk away. Pistachios, although naturally green, lose their green vibrance through the gelato-making process. And in any event, they don’t have enough pigment to dye an entire batch of gelato green. The bright color green is a sign of artificial dyes, something a true gelatiere knows is not necessary to sell his or her product.
  2. Ask to sample the almond-flavored gelato.
    Similar to the pistachio situation, nuts are a tricky business. If you taste the almond gelato and taste any almond extract, walk away. A true almond gelato should not taste sharp and biting like the pseudo-chemical flavor of almond extract. It should put the natural umami and sweetness of almond on display. In other words, it should taste like almonds. You can also try any banana flavors using the same idea.
  3. Ask the salesman who makes the gelato.
    There are two Italian terms you should be aware of: gelataiolo (which is roughly translated to something like ice cream seller) and gelatiere (which is kind of like an executive pastry chef but for gelato). Commercially grade gelato can be produced and shipped around the world in bags, and all a gelataiolo needs to do is open the container and sell it. If, instead, the person selling you gelato knows the gelatiere personally–even better if that person is behind the counter–you can usually expect a more quality product. My favorite gelateria has a gelatiere who wakes up very early in the morning to start that day’s batch of gelato. His gelato is so good, I drive a half hour to eat there instead of somewhere else.

I hope this is helpful, and I hope that you can eat some gelato very soon!

P.S. If you love Italian food, be sure to check out my cookbooks!