very summer, food-minded Rome travelers and residents find one of two ways out from the relentless city heat: air-conditioned restaurants (temperature mattering over quality) and gelato.
For many, whipped cream-topped gelato cones and gelato-chock coppette are not only a must in the dog days of summer but can sometimes replace a meal.
Not to be mistaken with fattier (and colder) ice cream, you can find gelato artigianale — artisan gelato made using strictly non-industrial guidelines — in gelato parlors, which in recent years have acquired fine dining status. They include ingredient pedigrees, unusual flavor combos, and savory haute cuisine savory variations. They also get social media coverage worthy of prime minister sex scandals.
The number of new and top-notch gelaterie seem to increase with each passing summer, making your choices seemingly boundless.
Needless to say, I’m an avid gelato consumer. I also love lists. Here are my Rome favorites.
Fatamorgana has neighborhood shops in Monti, Trieste, Trastevere, Prati and the Spanish Steps. Rome’s most popular gelato sorceress churns some of the city’s finest artisan, gluten-free gelato. Flavors change by season, with favorites including “Kentucky,” a tobacco-flavored chocolate, and “Aphrodite,” tangy celery and lime. There’s also almond and cardamom, basil with honey and walnuts, baklava, and wild strawberry with Calvados. ¶ Fatamorgana. Via Lago di Lesina 9-11; tel. 06.8639.1589. Via Bettolo, 7; tel. 06. 3751.9093. Also at Piazza degli Zingari and Piazza San Cosimato.
Come il Latte is the new kid on the block, and it’s booming. This rookie gelateria — with its strict ban on hydrogenated fats, preservatives, and artificial antioxidants — is fitted with sexy white and dark chocolate fountains that ooze sinful sauces. Homemade cones and wafers are dipped in your sauce of choice and then generously filled with salted caramel, apple cinnamon, mascarpone and crumbled Osvego cookies and caffè assoluto, plus fresh seasonal fruits (dates, persimmon, fig or white peach). The all-American drinking fountain completes the scene. ¶ Come il Latte. Via Silvio Spaventa 24/26; tel. 06.4290.3882.
Neve di Latte, in the up-and-coming Flaminio district and near the MAXXI museum, serves up an artisan, organic, seasonal (and pricey) gelato using top-of-the-line ingredients and classic recipes. The best flavors — from extravagant mastermind Ermanno di Pomponio — include Haiti Komet Jamaica coffee, ridiculously good stracciatella made with German milk and Amedei dark chocolate chips, pine nuts from Pisa, and bio-dynamic cantaloupe melon. All are served in biodegradable cups. Via Luigi Poletti, 6; tel. 06.320.8485. No website.
Fior di Luna in Trastevere employs only high-quality fair trade ingredients (the movement focuses on promoting international sustainability). Trademark recipes yield gelato that has intense and unique flavors. Flavor choices are limited and chosen daily (a quality guarantee) based on season and available ingredients. If you’re lucky enough to find it, try their superb peanut butter or, in winter, the delicious nocciola (hazelnut from Langhe). The delicious house sorbets include milk-free Domori Sur del Lago chocolate from Venezuela. ¶ Fior di Luna. Via della Lungaretta, 96; tel. 06.6456.1314.
Gelateria del Teatro expanded recently. Its two centro storico branches are gelato fixtures. The gelato here offers seasonal ingredients and creative flavor pairings, with delightful service capping the experience. You can watch the gelato being made daily through a glass wall separating the sales counter from the pristine workshop in back. Choose from lactose-free flavors and sit at outdoor tables in the shade (no surcharge). Must-have house specialties include dark chocolate with Nero d’Avola wine, sage and raspberry, spumante with strawberries, and a peach sorbet perfumed with lavender. ¶ Gelateria del Teatro. Via dei Coronari. 65-66; tel. 06.4547.4880. Lungotevere dei Vallati, 25-27.
Gelateria dei Gracchi, with two new branches in Cinecittà and Viale Regina Margherita, never fails to hold up its end of the gelato bargain. Its Prati flagship store offers pistachio made from delicious Bronte, Sicily nuts. Other Gracchi favorites include the mixed berry frutti di bosco medley, watermelon and cantaloupe, and a number of chocolate variations, which in winter can include dark versions spiked with rum and other liqueurs. ¶ Gelateria dei Gracchi. Via dei Gracchi, 272; tel. 06.3216.668. Viale Regina Margherita, 212; tel. 06.8535.3508; Via Tuscolana, 251; tel. 06.785,6622. No website.
Otaleg! (read it backwards and smile) is known for its glass-encased “aquarium” workshop and a five-star ingredient list. It churns out an average of six kilos of gelato hourly (the equivalent of roughly two leveled vats) thanks to a vintage vertical Cattabriga gelato machine. The labor-intensive output limits the flavor choices. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to sample the thick and meaty zabaione (Marsala Florio riserva 1840 added), the violet hued Turkish pistachio, creamy Amarelli licorce or the classic hazelnut and Tahiti vanilla. Summer also brings an array of fresh fruit flavors. ¶ Otaleg!. Via dei Colli Portuensi, 594; tel. 338.651.5450.
Il Gelato di Claudio Torcé The enlightened Torcé was a pathfinder in the world of gourmet gelato. He was first to promote savory frozen choices, audacious ingredient pairings, and push for the use of premium ingredients. Torcé also experimented with oddball flavors (gorgonzola & celery and ricotta & blueberry). The less intrepid will find “regular” flavors. Once only in EUR, Torcé’s gelato can now be found in a number of citywide locations. Flavors change daily, but I always hope to find ginger, habanero or spicy chocolate day. ¶ Il Gelato di Claudio Torcé. Via dell’Aeronautica, 105; tel. 06.512.8948. Franchise branches: Viale Aventino, 59; Via Prassilla, 39; Casal Palocco Le Terrazze shopping mall; Via Stoccolma, 7; Viale delle Repubbliche Marinare, 101 (Ostia); Centro Commerciale Roma Est; Circonvallazione Trionfale, 11.