Sweet, rich, creamy – is there anything negative about gelato? (Ignoring the calorie count of course). Daily gelato is an absolute requirement in Rome during summer. With temperatures rising up to between 30 and 40 degrees Celsius daily (85 to 105 Fahrenheit), gelato was just about the only thing I wanted to eat. Thankfully, there was a gelateria on just about every corner ready to sate my cravings – a dangerous reality. After trips to countless gelaterias, here is my roundup of the best places to go.
The Best of the Best – Fatamorgana
If ever there was such a thing as a food orgasm, Fatamorgana provides it. The gelato is almost unbelievably creamy and rich, but what I loved most about Fatamorgana were the bizarre flavours. They have flavours such as white wine and lime or avocado (one of my personal favourites). They also have amazingly tasty less unusual flavours like cinnamon cream and mint and chocolate. Being a bit of a fairy-tale enthusiast I was particularly excited by the fairy-tale themed gelato flavours, for example, Thumbelina. My favourite was Snow White – vanilla with apples chunks and raspberry sauce. The only problem with Fatamorgana is there are not very many in the city – though if there was one on every block I would definitely have come back from Rome about 20 pound heavier than I did.
Creamiest – Il Gelato di San Crispino
San Crispino near the Pantheon churns out top quality creamy gelato. They have fewer flavours than Fatamorgana and definitely less interesting ones, but the quality of each flavour is undeniable. The cinnamon was wonderful as well as the lemon which was amazingly refreshing in the heat. Their more interesting flavours tend to be more expensive but are well worth it. Meringue with dark chocolate is a little piece of heaven.
Best Flavours – Gelateria del Teatro
There are two of these gelaterias in Rome and they have a wide array of very interesting and delicious flavours. I loved their use of herbs in ice cream – sage and raspberry; lavender and white peach; and rosemary with honey and lemon. Normally the idea of sage in my ice cream would be completely unappealing. What do I care about rosemary when chocolate is sitting next to it? But Gelateria del Teatro completely converted me. My only qualm was that the gelato was not as creamy as I would have liked. The flavours were delectable but the texture was a bit icy.
The Chain of Choice – La Romana
I almost always prefer a local gelateria to a chain but La Romana provides fierce competition for nearby smaller gelaterias. To ensure top quality, their gelato is made fresh every few hours from largely organic ingredients. They have all of the standard favourites and their fruit flavours are delicious. They have a few more interesting flavours which can vary from store to store. One of my favourites was Croccante all’amarena – milk cream with black cherries, hazelnuts, meringue and dark chocolate. If that wasn’t enough, they offer free extras! Ever had your gelato melt and leak down through the bottom of your cone creating a mess on your lap? La Romana has the solution. If you go for a cone, which I highly recommend that you do, they fill the bottom of your cone with chocolate on request and they also offer cream to top off your gelato. La Romana has also recognised the importance of atmosphere. Many of their stores have seating and air-conditioning – a godsend after walking around Rome in the heat.
Top: Outside Gelateria El Teatro
Photography by Shahad Ismail