Rome’s Best Gelato

Rome’s Best Gelato
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Finding good gelato in Rome may seem easy, but eating the great stuff takes know-how. These three city centre icecream parlours, or gelaterie, are a good place to start.

When the Obamas visited Rome they made a pit stop in Giolitti, arguably the city’s best loved and most famous gelateria. Tucked on a shady street near the Pantheon and behind the parliament, it’s no exaggeration to say that everywhere in this spacious, old fashioned interior, people are stuffing themselves with icecream fit for the gods. Creations like the Giolitti Cup, which is made from chocolate icecream, chilled zabaglione and custard, are whisked out on trays high above heads, making that snap decision when it comes to ordering that little bit harder. Flavours like cinnamon, fig and chestnut are ‘off piste’ enough to pique tourists’ interest, while more traditional flavours like pistachio and stracciatella – creamy icecream flecked with splinters of crisp dark chocolate, keep the Romans happy.rome gelato

Meanwhile the fruit flavours – which are bulging with fresh ingredients, have all the zing of sorbet with the indulgence factor of icecream. ‘Oreo’ – made from chocolate biscuits with an inner, milky layer, is a fairly recent addition to the menu that gets gobbled up as soon as a tub hits the display. Making best-selling, homemade icecream doesn’t come that difficult to the Giolitti family – they’ve been at it since 1890 when they supplied cream-based products to the Italian royal family. But a cast-iron reputation that has attracted celebrities like Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz and lately even the Obamas, has its drawbacks. The place is mobbed, morning noon till night, and getting served is a bit like being trapped in the middle of an elegant rugby scrum. Roll up your sleeves and charge. Not so in the Testaccio branch of Giolitti where grabbing a quick cone is less ‘mission impossible’, more leisurely treat. While it’s a magnet for sun-baked tourists who have wandered out of the centre, the residents of Testaccio like to keep this legendary icecream parlour a secret, and its select menu which favours quality over quantity is the reason why. It is one of the few establishments in the city to serve ‘malaga’, or rum and raisin and the flavour is so intense that it leaves you feeling like you’ve drained a bottle of Jamaica’s finest. Wobbly berries in the ‘frutta di bosco’ taste fresh from a fruit-picking expedition, and the banana icecream has a mushed up quality that feels almost healthy.

In fact the icecream here tastes so homemade (and is) that a twirl of fresh cream on top isn’t the sickening afterthought that it can be in more ‘chainy’ establishments, but a ‘why not? which only adds to the effect. Back in town, Grom has got the ‘trendy artigianale’ side of things sown up. Created in 2002 by two young entrepreneurs who wanted to put the homemade back into icecream, Grom ingredients are meticulously sourced and contain no artificial substances. The result is an innovative and seasonal menu that tips its hat to the health conscious. A revolving door of seasonal flavours is added every month and customers with food allergies can avoid tripping themselves up by consulting an ingredients chart – not the sexiest way to choose an icecream, but then neither are food allergies.
rome gelato
One of the stand out flavours is ‘salty caramel’, which does what it says on the tin, but with just the right amount of salt. More traditional flavours like ‘mint’ have been tweaked and repackaged as ‘milk and mint’ and only three flavours – coffee, cream, and ‘creme of Grom’ contain eggs. The result is a denser icecream than the milk based variety, though that’s not to say the latter doesn’t pack a punch. ‘Granita’, a type of Sicilian sorbet, sits well with Grom’s ‘traditional’ philosophy, and comes in three flavours: lemon, coffee and almond, as on the island. If the chain – which has brand spanking new branches all over Italy, has one shortcoming, it would be portion size. At 2.50 a cone, the price is slightly above average, but the scoops certaintly don’t tilt and dribble over the sides like the greedy icecream eater might hope for. That said, what the portions lack in size, the slick, modern shops make up for in style.

ANSA by Jennifer Knighton

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