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I tasted my first proper gelato on the banks of Lake Garda, Italy, in the pretty town of Sirmione.
It was a far cry from the whipped up sugary technicolour mess that passed for gelato in my childhood. This version was creamy and full of flavour. I wanted to savour every mouthful.
These days gelato is probably my main weakness. I just can’t resist the smooth texture and density of flavour that you get from savouring flavours that have been properly made.
What I love about gelato
Ice-cream and sorbet are delicious but they don’t match the experience. I love the creamy milky based varieties, the intense chocolate kind, fruit based, traditional and modern flavours and mash ups.. yes all of it.
On a recent trip to Italy I had to restrain myself from enjoying more than two serves of the ice cold goodness a day.. I won’t say how big they were either. Italians are so civilised that they eat gelato at pretty much any time of day, probably even for breakfast. So who was I to buck tradition.
What is gelato?
What is it about gelato that makes it so delicious? I made a little cheat sheet for you but the three main factors are: the percentage of butterfat in the mixture, the process of combining ingredients and the temperature at which the mixture is stored.
Where to find the world’s best gelato
Hands down one of the best examples of creamy authentic gelato I have tried was at Badiani gelateria at Mercato Metropolitano in London’s Elephant and Castle. Badiani are a Florentine company who have been making gelato since 1936. Their emphasis is on the best and purest ingredients. You can taste that commitment to quality in every lick.
Recently in Brighton I had a chocolatey scoop of nutella and another of salted caramel from a traditional Italian style shop and then I spied Gelato Gusto. They do all sorts of interesting flavours and quirky things including a gelato burger! Oh no! Luckily the queue was way too long for my poor little toddlers to manage otherwise my jeans would be in extreme protest right now.
Hot days in Barcelona lend themselves to the fruitier gelato flavours. Look no further than Gelaaati di Marco behind the cathedral. You must try the Mojito flavour. It is so refreshing and minty. I tried it several years ago and am still talking about it. It was that good.
Sydney and Melbourne, Australia
Headquartered in Sydney, Messina has queues out the door most nights at all their branches. Their reputation is justified by their quality and selection. At this gelateria you will find 35 classic flavours and five special flavours each week.
I am always tempted by the specials with names like “Bishop of Ken” which is a vanilla anglaise gelato with rhubarb and oat crumble.
I really encourage you to keep an open mind when it comes to sourcing the best gelato in Italy.
The hipster places may look great but they may not have the yummiest product. When sourcing your gelaterie look for the following signs – produzione artigianale or proprio produzione means that the gelato is made by the owners of the shop.
But my top tip for finding great gelato is to avoid places where the gelato is on display in glass cabinets. The gelato cannot stay at the right temperature in those conditions.
Another tell tale sign is bright, unnatural colours of gelato. Look for the pistachio flavour. If it is bright green then move on. Proper pistachio gelato is a pale greeny brown colour.
We found a tiny little bar in Bagni di Lucca out of the main tourist route that made the creamiest, most intense flavours. The giveaway that they had some serious gelato making credentials was their certificate from the Gelato University.
Oh yes, there is such a thing. I think I’ll do a PHD!
Help a gelato lover out.. where have you eaten the most amazing gelato? What food experiences have defined your travels?