There is an art to making gelato, and those who make it beautifully do so because they are making it from the freshest ingredients and in small, artful batches. It is that simple. And unlike American ice cream, the best gelato is not necessarily the most expensive. It just may be a few blocks off of the main thoroughfare (and when we are talking about great gelato, walking a few blocks is not out of the question).
So, what makes a good gelateria?
- Small Batches: Those enormous piles of gelato in the tourist traps are never a good sign. They may be photogenic, but I always have to ask myself: how long has that gelato been sitting there? And then I walk away. I look for small batches in small containers.
- Produzione Artiginale or Produzione Propria: many gelato stores buy their gelato from a distributor. But those who say they have "produzione artiginale" or "produzione propria" are making it from scratch. What's the difference? "Artiginale" means that they are making it, but the ingredients aren't necessarily local. "Propria" means that they are making it completely from scratch and with fresh, local ingredients. Look for a sticker on the door or window of the shop or ask inside.
- Color: gelato shouldn't be bright or crazy colors. Do you see bright blue gelato? Pistachio that's green, not avocado-colored? Walk away quickly. Just like blue ice cream, that color is only achieved by using tons of food coloring. Go for the real stuff.
- Locals: when the shop is buzzing with Italians, you know you are in the right place.
So, where do you find the best gelato in Florence? These are my three favorite shops:
Gelateria Carabe (via Ricasoli 60/r): this little spot serves Sicilian-style gelato as well as hand-filled cannoli that will make your head swim. And in the summer their granitas hit the spot, too. The shop is just down the street about a block and a half from the Accademia, so visit the David and then grab a cone.
Gelateria Grom (via delle Oche right by the Duomo): granted, Grom is a chain, but it is a chain devoted to producing gelato the slow food way. They even have their own farm where they raise the fruits for their flavors. And their pear gelato is to die for! They have a chart on their website for Celiacs and other people with food intolerances -- most people can find a flavor that will agree with their sensitive tummies.
|Gelateria dei Neri|
Gelateria dei Neri (via dei Neri -- between the Uffizi and Santa Croce): here you will find gelato made by true artisans. The owners of the shop love gelato and all of the goodness that goes into it, and they have developed some recipes that will knock your socks off. On a summer day look for some unusual flavors, too, and try them! I had gorganzola which, when coupled with riso (rice), was an incredible and refreshing treat.