Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, but the differences between these two dairy products highly impact the taste, texture, and experience of having gelato in Italy and eating ice cream in the States. While containing the same ingredients, ice cream is much more fluffy and airy, as compared to gelato. Ice cream contains more cream/more fat which allows for the increased trapping of air.
I have had 24 different flavors of gelato on 15 different occasions. One of the my favorite flavors, I had very recently in Arezzo: cremino. While other gelato is stacked a little higher, looks whipped and creamy in its tin, cremino is different. A smooth, flat designed chocolate layer sits on top of a vanilla (fior di latte) base. When ordered, the server will mix the rich chocolate topping with the gelato underneath to create a marbled texture that taste oh so delicious. The chocolate was just slightly thicker than syrup, and the gelato was still creamy like normal. The chocolate ganache was so amazing paired with the plain vanilla. My other favorite flavor was a tiramisu that I had in Pisa. This texture was the most interesting, as there was cocoa powder dusted on top of the gelato metal tin, and there were chocolate chunks embedded in the coffee gelato. As a person that prefers fruitier desserts, I was surprised that I loved these two more chocolate-y flavors the most.
The most amazing combination I concocted was definitely the salted caramel and apricot. The apricot was fruit and sweet, and the caramel was slightly salted. This salty and sweet combination was perfectly balanced, and neither flavor overwhelmed the other.
My favorite gelateria was Hedera in Rome. Supposedly, they are the people who create the Pope’s birthday cake. The strawberry gelato I got there was absolutely divine, and I have not have strawberry gelato that compares. There were so many seeds in the gelato–it was extremely fresh. It was so refreshing on that hot day in Rome. They were warm and welcoming in the tiny box of a store. It was clear that all of the workers knew each other well, or were even related. Their kitchen was easily seen behind large windows behind the counter. I was able to see a large bowl of cantaloupe, and I knew I had to try the melone flavor, just to see exactly how fresh their gelato tasted.