Just yesterday I indulged in a yummy cup of pistachio and stracciatella gelato.
Beware of marketing, a.k.a. visual enhancement.
I’ve lived in Italy long enough to be firmly convinced that colorful and dazzling visual presentations of gelato are usually signs of sub-par gelato. Tourist hubs are full of these shops. They have displays of copious mounds of different flavors and enhanced colors to beckon customers. You know, bright shiny object? Yes, color can be a powerful marketing tool. It also can be incredibly deceiving.
For me, this presentation demonstrates gelato that is overly marketed with unnatural colors and obscene quantities.
Beware of towering mounds of gelato and an endless number of flavors.
In my experience, the best gelateria, like better restaurants, doesn’t try to be a jack of all trades by having too many choices. A good but limited selection is usually a harbinger of Italy’s best gelato. Instead, I get especially excited when I see that the gelato is being made on-site and is coming out in batches. You know, freshly made gelato, not some heaped-up concoction sitting there for God knows how long.
Look for the natural colors of gelato.
I use pistachio as my poster child for getting this point across. I want to scream when I see bright green pistachio gelato on display. That simply isn’t the nut’s color. It’s more of a color somewhere between the color of putty and sage. Still, marketers know people can be hoodwinked by compelling color, and they heap on the food coloring in average renderings of pistachio. They usually add flavoring and sugar, too.
Pistachio gelato is my favorite.
Research, research, research!
When I’m venturing to a new city in Italy, I do a Google search for “best gelato in (city name).” Not only does it help me narrow my search, but it also helps me know which flavors are a gelateria’s specialties!
You can’t go wrong with Grom.
Under the heading of “Italy’s Best Gelato,” it certainly qualifies. I make a beeline for a Grom gelateria when I’m in doubt. It’s a chain, but an incredible one. I encourage you to check out their website and read up on their gelato philosophy. Their mission statement holds dear all the values I look for in truly good and un-manipulated gelato.
And, lean on an Italian to point you in the right direction.
Bad gelato is a sin for Italians. They simply won’t stand for it unless such an Italian is an opportunistic gelateria proprietor simply looking to capitalize on the undiscerning gelato affections of so many tourists.
When you ask an Italian for the name of their favorite gelateria, don’t be surprised to find yourself going to an out-of-the-way place. That was the case for us when we lived in Treviso. The gelateria our next-door neighbors insisted we frequent was on the outskirts of town and off the main road and keeping company with an auto repair shop. And their gelato was incredible. So was their business since the shop had captured the affections and dedication of local Italians.
That, my friends, is my advice on searching out and enjoying Italy’s best gelato! It is one of my most cherished indulgences and one of the many blessings of living in Italy.
Jed, I can relate with the tourist trap of gelato. For years, starting in the year after the flood, I lived up the street from the best Gelateria in Florence, and had it almost daily. It’s still going, called, Gelateria Vivoli.
Finally the truth about gelato. I’ve been preaching to everyone that travels to Italy to avoid the colourful, mounds of 1000 flavours gelaterias. Yes, Grom is my favourite, always look for a store when I go (I found one in Paris). Gelateria Edoardo in Florence is also a must, just behind the Duomo. Thanks for the post, Jed.
Thanks for underscoring this, Daniela! And thanks for the recommendation of Gelateria Edoardo!
I Just wrote to you about espreso gelato..how it needs to be dark brown…and is found on the Lido. Check your email.
I will be sure to sample that flavor on the Lido next month when I’m there! Thanks for the recommendation!