I’ve been thinking a lot about Gelato in Rome lately. Certainly not because the weather has been persuasive (it’s been raining here since november for christ’s sake!) But because one of the princes of ice cream is coming to town: David Lebovitz. David, who is the author of The Perfect Scoop, will be signing copies of his new book, Ready for Dessert. He’ll be in town since he is leading a Gelato Tour for Context Italy. Domenico and I are thrilled to be co-hosting, with Context, a book signing party for him over at Domenico’s office on Via Cairoli (drop me a line if you’d like to come, June 5)
As many of you know, I’m a list kind of girl (lists of restaurants, lists of stores, etc). So I was shocked to realize that I had never made up a ‘best of’ gelato list for Rome. I mean, really. Yes, you’ve got the Colosseum and the Vatican, but don’t most people come to Italy to eat ice cream?
So, here is the definitive Minchilli guide to gelato in Rome. And while I’m usually of the camp of “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it,” I am including my own not-so-positive opinions of a few gelato places that always seem to make it into the guide books, but shouldn’t. And frankly, the list is not so definitive, since I’d really like to hear what everyone else has to say, and am willing and able to do more research!
Gelateria del Teatro
This hard-to-find gelateria is just off Via dei Coronari, on a dead end alleyway, tucked into the corner. Make an effort to search it out, because it tops my list at the moment. Opened by an ex pastry chef, he searches out the best ingredients including pistachios from Bronte and lemons from Amalfi. And if nuts are your thing, this is the best place to get almond, walnut and, of course, pistachio.
Via di San Simone, 70
Ok, I just said Gelateria del Teatro tops my list. What I really meant was it ties with Fattamorgana. Love, love, love this place. But it’s very out of the way, so I don’t get there that often. Thank god. It’s hard to have a favorite here, since the owner is very creative and changes offerings constantly. Be prepared to find things like Blue Cheese and Pear, and Kentucky (which is flavored with tobacco). I still remember the day I ordered Dukha, which was a rich blend of sesame, almonds, hazelnuts and coriander. I’ve never found it again. Reason enough to keep going back.
Via di Lago di Lesina 9/11
Via Ostiense 36/E
Via G. Bettolo 7
This gelaterie was a revelation to me. I had always assumed – due to its location at the foot of the campidoglio in prime tourist area – that this was just another tourist trap. Then, at a recent dinner party someone brought a tub of ice cream including armagnac soaked prunes and chocolate from their sister branch in Largo Argentina and I was hooked. This afternoon, while doing research for this post (someone has to do it, right?) I walked over and had Ricotta with Candied Figs, as well as a scoop of Almond. Their sister shop in Largo Arenula, equally touristy looking, is equally not touristy at all. As an added bonus, they are certified organic.
Piazza Ara Coeli 9-10
Al Settimo Gelo
I made a point of hitting Settimo Gelo for this posting. It was one of those places I had vaguely heard about, but never gotten to because it’s in …..Prati. I know, Rome is small, but Prati is not on my way to anything. Especially way the other side of Piazza Mazzini. But this should definitely be on everyone’s gelato itinerary since it’s fantastic! Don’t look for cute here. Very anonymous place, on a nothing sort of street. The first hint that something is different are the stickers plastering the door with the names of all the top food guides, from Slow Food to Gambero Rosso. Besides seasonal fruit flavors we tried, and love: Gelato Iraniano (Saffron and Rose Water); Gelato Greco (chestnut honey and yogurt); Sesamo e Miele; Ciocolato e Arachidi salati spezzati (chocolate with salted cracked peanuts); Dark Chocolate and candied Orange Peel. And we loved the wine flavors: Crema di Amarone con visciole (wine with cherries); Crema del Barolo e Prugne. Definitely bringing my friend Alice Feiring here.
Via Vodice 21
Palazzo del Freddo Giovanni Fassi
I can’t believe I only discovered this place last year. It’s said to be the oldest gelateria in Rome, and maybe even in Italy. Founded in 1880, it was (until they closed for restoration) comfortingly old fashioned, in a mid 20th century kind of way. I LOVE the plaster reproductions of gelato displayed. That may be why my friend Meg went here almost every day when her sister Amy was living in Rome. Or, more likely, it was just because the ice cream tasted so good. The true test of any gelateria is, of course, pistachio, and theirs is superb. They are very well known for their semi freddi and their various ice cream cakes. It’s not up there on the level of the new artisan gelaterie in town, in terms of ingredients, etc. But there is something that I love about the setting. The huge room, full of tables (which they don’t charge you to sit at!) groups of kids, families, old folks….it all feels very Roman. In a good way. (have’t been back since they have restructured. I hope it isn’t all shiny and new).
Via Principe Eugenio 65 (off piazza vittorio)
I can still remember the taste of the melon ice cream I had here in 1973. I was 12, and we were living in Palazzo Cenci, across the street. After lunch I begged to be let out on my own to get a gelato. By the time I made it back, upstairs, I had finished my small cup of melone. It was so good, I immediately left again, to get another cup. What I really loved, was the way the pure, rich whipped cream became almost solid next to the cold gelato.
Even back in those days, I was surprised I had enough nerve to go their on my own. Pica was back then, and continues to be today, well known for it’s off-putting owners. But if you can get past the rudeness, the ice cream is heavenly. They are best known for their rice based gelati, which change according to whim and season. How does the rice stay so firm? A closely guarded secret. Domenico’s favorite is manna. I love the riso alla canella.
Via del Seggiola 12 (off Via Arenula)
I first tasted San Crispino in the late ’90’s, at the Salone del Gusto in Turin. Although they had been in Rome for a while, I some how hadn’t made it there. They were really the first truly high end artisinal ice cream makers in town, searching out top notch ingredients and taking great care with small batches and temperature control. No fluffed up, day glo mounds of ice cream here. The gelato is carefully scooped out of metal containers sunk into a refrigerated counter, topped by lids.
It used to be the best in town, no doubt about it. My friend Evan would always head here, and make a point of trying just about every flavor. But since then places like the ones mentioned above have taken the crown. Since they have expanded, that it isn’t as dependable. I get the feeling the Fratelli Allongi aren’t there any more, and the flavor sometime suffers.
Via della Panetteria 42 (near Trevi Fountain)
Piazza della Maddalena 3 (near Pantheon)
I know this is supposed to be one of the great gelato places in Rome, but I am constantly disappointed. It’s not that it’s bad (and if you are around here, do stop by) it’s just that it’s not worth a detour in my opinion. The flavor is ok…but the gelato itself just feels too full of air and I think they are putting in some sort of stabilizer. And is it really worth that humoungous line of tourists?Via Ufficio del Vicario, 40 (near the Pantheon)
Once again, I tried to go to this famed gelateria near the Vatican. But was once again I was put off by the huge line. Is it worth it? I don’t know. My friend Edward swears by it. As obviously do the hordes waiting to get in. The cones leaving the place were a little too big and a little too brightly colored for my comfort. But, like I said, I haven’t tried it, so you’ll have to join the crowds and let me know.
Via Bastioni di Michelangelo, 5
Gelateria Della Palma
I used to go here as a teenager, when I didn’t know any better. Yes, the HUGE number and variety of flavors is impressive. But the colors and taste is not. It is more of a tourist attraction (located on the main pedestrian road leading out from the Pantheon) than a true gelateria.
Via della Maddelena 19
Let me know your thoughts. Everyone and his aunt blogs about gelato in Rome, so I’m sure you have an opinion.