The Best in Rome
Gelato, which literally means “frozen” is the Italian word for ice cream. But there are big differences between the gelato you buy by the cup at an Roman gelateria and the ice cream you buy by the pint in other countries. The best gelato is made daily in small batches, while commercial ice cream is made in huge batches and kept frozen for long periods of time. Gelato has less air in it, and a lot less butterfat (0-8% as opposed to 16-30% in premium commercial ice cream). And it’s smoother and creamier because it’s kept at a lower temperature. While ice cream is kept at –10 farenheit, gelato is kept at a warm 7 degrees. Italians have a long history with frozen desserts. Marco Polo brought the idea back from China. And in Sicily, gelato makers learned their trade from the Arabs. In 1533, when Caterina de’ Medici married Henri d’Orléans, she took her cooks along to Paris. Her gelato maker, a former Tuscan chicken farmer named Ruggeri, became so famous he was beaten and robbed by jealous French chefs. He left his gelato recipe in a sealed envelope along with his resignation letter and fled back home to his chickens. But the recipe spread throughout Europe and the world. If you’re ready to indulge in the best frozen nectar in Rome, head to one of these gelaterie.
You'll need to learn the Rome gelato drill: If you order your gelato at a table with waiter service, you'll be presented with a bill. But if you order at the counter, you'll have to pay first. Check out the offerings, then stop by the cash register (cassa), tell them what you'd like (a cone, a cup, small, medium or large). You 'll pay there, and be given a little receipt (scontrino), which you'll present at the counter, where you'll choose from the array of flavors. Ordering or eating at a table is usually more expensive.
Il Dolce Sorriso
A tiny new gelateria, headed by master gelataio Raffaello Fracassi, with classic flavors like pistacchio, dark chocolate and hazelnut, as well as creative addition such as cheesecake and walnuts with carmalized figs. Fruit sherbets, mousses, frozen yogurt, frozen gelato cakes.
Via Arenula 25 (near the Ghetto, Campo de' Fiori)
It’s one of Rome’s oldest and possibily its most famous gelaterie, dating to the early 1900’s, and the ice cream is still delicious. The service is perfunctory, since it’s almost always mobbed with tourists trying to decipher the italian names of all the many flavors: stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate flakes), gianduia (chocolate and hazlenut), amarena (black cherry). A few caveats: (1) Don’t hold-up the line, be ready to say "yes" or "no" when you’re asked if you’d like a topping of panna (whipped cream) –a question in the form of a single word: Panna? (2)Pay no attention to the cashiers who will rarely give you a smile. (3) Take your cone or cup for a walk. It's gauche to occupy a table licking a cone. Tables are for waiter service only, and the prices for table service are higher.
Via Uffici del Vicario, 40 tel 06 699 1243 (Parliament)
Via Luigi Settembrini, 21/23 tel 06 321 7499 (Prati) Open daily
Il Gelato di Claudio
As with most artignal gelaterie, this one offers a range of the most popular flavors, as well as creative specialities, a staggering 70 flavors in all. The creation of master gelataio Claudio Torcè.
Viale dell'Aeronautica 105 (Eur)
Viale Aventino 59 (near Circus Maximus) is a franchise with about 40 flavors on offer.
Il Gelato San Crispino
The name is a mouthful, so we call it simply "Crispino". The gelato is considered by many to be the best in Rome, all freshly made on the premises and as the slogan says, "the only preservative is refrigeration.” No cones are offered, just cups in three sizes. The pear and chocolate meringue are among our favorites. Open noon to 12:30 am weekdays, noon to 1:30 am Friday and Saturday. Closed Tuesday.
Via della Panettteria, 42 tel 06.67 93 924 (Trevi fountain)
Piazza della Maddalena 3 (steps from the Pantheon)
Via Acaia, 56 tel. 06.70 45 0412 (San Giovanni)
Via Bevagna, 90 tel 06.33 22 1075 (Flaminio)
And at the RomaEst shopping mall, and Fiumicimo airport, terminal A
Gelateria al Teatro
Like the churches in Rome, gelaterias seem to pop up at every corner. So much so, that it is difficult to find a genuine gem. Always remember, pistachio is never bright green and banana is always grey. Meander around Piazza Navona and you will find Gelateria al Teatro, an authentic gelateria to quench the taste buds. The owners, Stefano and Silvia, are quick to offer tastes of their homemade specialties. They have traditional gusti: nocciola, crema, stracciatela, along with the unfamiliar white peach, fig, sesame and our personal favorite zabaione zibibbo. Unlike so many in the city, al Teatro offers gluten-free cones and a selection of vegan or non-dairy flavors.
Via S. Simone 70, off Via Dei Coronari
Everyday from 11 to midnight (1 am on weekends) tel 06 45474880
Fior di Luna
While we find the flavors here a bit less rich and creamy than some of our other favorites, this place is unique in that all of its products are organic and responsibly produced, as they adhere to the tenants of the Commercio Equo e Solidale. In addition to a nice selection of gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt flavors, the little shop carries organically produced pastas, healthy biscuits, oils, teas and gift items. For the diet conscious, they offer sugar-free gelato. The fruit flavors will cost you only 60 calories for 100 grams. Open Sunday-Saturday, noon - 1 am. Closed Monday.
Via della Lungaretta 96 tel 06 6456 1314 (Trastevere)
Romans Recommend: Gelateria Fata Morgana
Known for its unique combinations of flavors and dedication to making gelato from scratch using exclusively fresh, seasonal ingredients, with nearly 50 flavors, including almond-cardamon, basil-honey-walnut, pear and gorgonzola, poppy seed, white chocolate and pine nuts, and wasabi (dark chocolate and horseradish).
Recommended by Katie Parla.
Read about Katie on our Meet the Romans pages.
Via Via Lago di Lesina 9 (Quartiere Africano near Via Salario)
Via G. Bettolo 7 (Prati)
Piazza degli Zingari 5 (Monti)
Romans Recommend: Neve di Latte
The ingredients are extremely high quality and, of course, all natural. Creamy flavors are made with milk and cream from a biodynamic producer in Germany whose cows graze at around 1,400m above sea level. The chocolate is Amadei, the eggs are Parisi, the fruit is organic, seasonal, and mainly local (fairtrade Peruvian bananas are an exception), the vinegar (yup, there is “vinaigrette” flavor) is 25-year aged Balsamic from Modena. The list goes on and on and all ingredients are proudly listed alongside each flavor displayed the refrigerated case.
Recommended by Katie Parla.
Read about Katie on our Meet the Romans pages.
Via Luigi Poletti 6 (Flaminio)
Palazzo del Freddo di Giovanni Fassi
One of Rome's oldest gelato purveyors, in business since 1880, this ice cream parlor has held onto its mythical reputation through four generations. It’s all nostra produzione (our own production). Known for il ninetto (a chocolate and cream cone), and a variety of other frozen treats, such as cassata sicliana, ice cream cake, semifreddo and tartufoni (a chocolate covered vanilla ice cream imitating the form and color of truffles). The place is huge, large enough to handle a crowd. Closed Monday.
Via Principe Eugenio 65-67 tel 06.44 64 740 (near Termini train station)
Via Vespasiano, 56/a-b-c tel 06 397 251 64 (Prati)
Away from the hustle and bustle, this small family-run gelateria has the air of a familiar Roman neighborhood hang-out. Service is pleasant and efficient. The ice cream is produced on the premises (produzione artiginale). Their frozen blend of the freshest fruits and cream is the best we’ve had in Rome.
Via Duse 1/e tel 06 807 9300 (Parioli) Closed Sunday Open till midnight.
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In Rome Now Travel Guide: Rome Italy Gelato, Italian Ice Cream