I scream. You scream. We all screamed for…gelato!
Jeff and I were extremely strict on our diet in the months leading up to our Italian trip. We knew full well we would gain back every lost ounce to gelato, but we could not be more thrilled with all of the incredible choices we had in store.
While waiting in Heathrow for our flight to take off, Jeff said, “I can’t wait to have gelato. Remember that place in Rome?” What I remembered of the gelato in Rome was there was a lot of it and my favorite flavor was amaretto found at Giolittli–a famous gelateria east of the river to the Vatican. Our expectations were set high. But, remarkably, the rest of Italy did not disappoint.
This entry is not to show off our gelato-eating abilities. But I will share a couple of the great and not-so-great vendors we came across along our journey.
Cinque Terre: Corniglia
We found Gelateria Artizinale in the small village of Corniglia. Now, this place takes the cake for the whole holiday. I know, I’m starting with the winner instead of saving it for last, but it deserves top billing for what they served.
Like I mentioned, amaretto was the clear winner of 2014, but basil gelato was the winner this year. Since there is no website for this place, what you’ll need to do to get there is walk into the main part of town, continue as if you’re walking into the Centro. You’ll see a sign with an arrow down a small walkway pointing to an incline and more shops. (It’s pretty much the only path into town.) Gelateria Artizinale will be one of the first shops on your right.
Our first spoonful was pure bliss and completely full of the sweet basil flavor with flecks of green leaf. Once I can get my hands on an ice cream maker, you better believe I’m going to find a way to replicate this at home. The cream base blended seamlessly with the flowery fragrance of the basil and created a perfect balance to a honey flavored second scoop.
We did notice in the other villages of the Cinque Terre, they had their own flavor named after them. In Riomaggiore, it was dried figs in a sugar syrup, but in Vernazza, it was served with local honey and pine nuts. Both were mixed in a vanilla base and delicious. While these deserve honorable mention, basil still wins.
Tuscany: San Gimignano
In the hills of Tuscany, we found Gelateria Dondoli in the small town of San Gimignano southwest of Florence. Hailed as the winner of the best gelato in Tuscany in 2015, we thought we would stand in line and see what the fuss was about. They have about thirty different flavors and as you crowd into this tiny shop, and before you have time to scan all the choices, a girl shouts at you to place your order.
I tried the Crema di Santa Fina or Saffron Cream with Caramelized Pine Nuts and the Blackberry/Lavender. Mixed together, it was a little strange, but the flavors independent of each other, were amazing. I love all things lavender, so I was floored by how strongly it came through the tartness of the blackberries. And the pine nuts lent a nice texture to the smooth cream.
Jeff, on the other hand, tried a Gorgonzola/Walnut mix, and it was not good. I’m sure the walnut would have been just fine on its own, but the blue cheese flavor really threw us for a loop.
Florence: The Duomo
After dinner one night, Edoardo was recommended to us as a place to try organic gelato. It was just on the other side of the Duomo with a line forming out the door in the late hour. As we waited in line behind a very kissy couple, we debated on the flavors to choose.
I finally settled on Chianti and Chocolate. When in Florence, right? But the idea of the red wine sorbet was better than the execution since red wine is not usually so sweet; especially a Chianti base. I should have tried the Moscato with Peach.
What was cool about this place, besides the unique flavors, was the retro feel. An old-style cash register hides the modern one, 1940s walnut furniture and milk crates decorate the place, and the original doors hang in remembrance of the great flood that swept through Florence in 1966.
There are now two places we know of in Rome that have gluten-free cones. We remembered Fonte Della Salute from our previous visit with the bergamont ice cream, but it did not hold a candle to the new one we found: Fatamorgana. I got my gluten-free cone and a scoop of Peanut and a scoop of Baklava. How can you go wrong with those two flavors? I’m here to tell you, you can’t. They were perfect together. The melon and ginger Jeff and I later tried back at Fonte Della Salute left a little to be desired. The ginger flavor was completely overwhelmed by the melon, which was almost too sweet, if that can be possible.
The last place I’ll mention is actually a chain in Venice with more gluten-free cones: Grom. Sprinkled throughout the city, Grom offers pretty standard flavors with a lack of the boutique flair we had gotten used to. But if you’re in the mood for some salted caramel and coffee, it’ll hit the spot. I will mention this as well: the cone was not great. It tasted like stale corn flakes leaving an aftertaste lasting much longer than the memories of coffee gelato. You’d be better off with a cup.
With wonderful memories of gelato restored, and bellies full, Jeff turned to me as we boarded our plane home and said, “Where will I get my gelato now?”
* * * * *
When I moved to London, I had to get rid of my beloved ice cream maker. So, I don’t have a gelato recipe to test out this week, but I thought I would post one of my most requested ice cream recipes from my Austin days.
Brown Butter Ice Cream adapted from The Kitchn
makes 1 quart
220g unsalted butter
500ml whole milk
300ml heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp ground arrowroot
150g granulated sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lemon thyme, chopped fine
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1) In a large skillet, heat the butter until it turns golden brown, stirring occasionally. You will know it’s done when it smells nutty and toasted. Remove from heat and let it cool completely. Tip: Don’t use a black skillet. Instead use stainless steel so you can see the liquid clearly.
2) In a saucepan over low heat, bring the milk (save 3 tbsp) and cream together. Bring to a slow simmer.
3) As it heats, in a separate bowl, combine the 3 tbsp of milk and arrowroot together. Whisk thoroughly until completely combined.
4) When small bubbles form on the edge of the milk/cream mixture, pour in the sugar, honey, and lemon thyme. Whisk quickly to combine. Don’t let it come to a boil–keep it at a simmer. Continuously stir for 5 minutes until the mixture coats the back of the spoon or spatula. Remove from the heat. Strain out the lemon thyme.
5) In a blender or food processor, combine the milk mixture and brown butter completely. A whisk or spoon will not emulsify it enough.
6) Put in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours to completely cool.
7) Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturers instructions. Put in the freezer for a couple hours before serving.
This is delicious topped with some toasted walnuts or scooped in a mug of coffee for an Italian affogato. Give it a try and tell me what you think!