The heat came a little early in Rome this year. To us, that means just one very important thing: it’s gelato season! Gelato is a staple for keeping cool in Rome when it’s hot, but with so many choices to choose from it can be daunting to know where to go. Walking around the historic center, you’ll know doubt come across dozens upon dozens of small gelato shops, but the too many are tourist traps selling frozen mounds of sugar and colorants. So for the very best of artisanal gelato, have a look at our list of picks below:
Via dei Coronari | Lungotevere
With two locations Gelateria del Teatro is known for using fresh, local ingredients and artisanal techniques. Their shops are small and not located in large piazzas. Rather you’ll come across them walking the elegant “jewelry” road, Via dei Coronari, or the tree-lined Lungotevere. But either way, a heaping cone of their gelato will do the trick on hot day.
Fior di Luna is a small fish in a big sea of commercially produced gelato in Trastevere. But it’s evident from the first bite of any flavor that high quality, natural ingredients make a huge difference in their small batches. The limited menu of local favorites, seasonal combinations and fruit sorbets are all tasty and welcome on a hot Roman day.
For lactose-intolerant visitors to Rome, Grezzo will be your saving grace. Proudly serving up raw sweets, including chocolates and cakes in addition to a very limited gelato selection, all of the products at Grezzo are made without animal bi-products (the gelato is made with almond milk). The gelato is made with only the very best ingredients, like pistachios, hazelnuts, and cacao nuts, and only minimally worked to render the flavors even more intense.
Prati | Piazza Navona | Salario | Piazza del Popolo
The original location of Gelateria dei Gracchi is located on Via dei Gracchi in Prati, near the Vatican but the hometown gelateria has expanded to four locations around Rome. Creamy with intense, natural flavors, the award-winning gelato of Gelateria dei Gracchi has become a staple at the Roman dinner table (or enjoyed from a cone on the street) for those warm summer evenings.
EUR | Marconi | Viale Aventino
Known as the leading gelataio in Rome, Claudio Torcè has made a name for himself in the world of Italian gelato. His philosophy is simple – fresh, natural, high quality ingredients and traditional, artisanal techniques to produce the very best gelato. The menu highlights classical fixtures as well as seasonal combinations to take advantage of each season’s local bounty. The shops are located mostly outside the historic center and all on the south side of Rome – but all are easily accessible by metro B.
Far off the beaten path but easily reached with the metro B (stop: S. Agnese/Annibaliano), Gelateria daRe dishes up some of the city’s most delectable gelato and frozen treats (including gelato sandwiches, semi-freddo cakes, and single-portion tarts). From the humble laboratory in the back, the proprietor Veruska Cardellicchio, let’s her imagination take over. Using the highest quality ingredients, sourced nationally if not locally, she creates inventive flavors like meringue and praline, and her own chocolate and hazelnut variations (you won’t find any Nutella here). For the true foodie, a visit to Gelateria daRe is an important pilgrimage.
With so many gelaterie in the center of Rome, it can be confusing to know the difference between high quality, artisanal gelato and the fake, touristy stuff. Here are a few ways to spot the good gelato:
Colors should look natural. Electric blue or green should raise red flags. Artisanal gelato is made with fresh, natural ingredients, so the color of the final product should reflect that.
*Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb is to check the pistacchio gelato (since it is a staple of all gelaterie). Pistacchio gelato should be more of a beige color, not vibrant green since the color of pistacchio nuts is closer to brown. If the pistacchio has been colored green than it’s more than likely other flavors have been artificially altered as well.
Mounds of gelato in the cooler are a sign of poor quality gelato. Gelato oxidizes easily, so ideally (and traditionally) it should be served from deep, covered wells to keep the gelato fresh and away from the air. Although even great gelaterie have opted for open containers because it sells more gelato from a marketing point of view.
Innovative combinations are common as seasoned gelatai will use local, seasonal ingredients to create new flavors. But there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Artificial flavors (“Puffo,” or smurf, comes to mind initially) is a sign that the thought behind the gelato is less about the quality of ingredients and more to satisfy commercial objectives.
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Which is your favorite gelateria in Rome? Share your thoughts in the comments below!