How To Find Good Gelato In Italy, According To A Gelato Maker

Italians lead the European Union in ice cream production, having produced 157 million gallons in 2016. That's a whole lot of gelato. But not all gelato is made equal. While tourists often expect that any gelato bought in Italy is going to taste sublime, that's not always the case. Much of the gelato in touristy areas will not taste very different from the ice cream that you can get back home. So how can you make sure you're buying the kind of gelato that any Italian nonna would be proud to eat?

TikTok user Kacie Rose (@kacierose4) posted a clip interviewing a gelato maker in Florence, asking him how you can tell the good gelato from the mediocre. Antonio runs the gelato parlor La Sorbettiera, and his family has been making it since 1934. If anyone's an expert, it's him. Before we start, let's learn what the difference is between gelato and ice cream: ice cream has more air in it, so it has a lighter texture than gelato. Gelato's lower air content makes it denser and gives it a silkier texture than ice cream. Gelato also usually has a more concentrated flavor.

Color and shape

Gelato maker Antonio's first tip in the TikTok video was to check the color of the product. Gelato should not be a very bright color as it should contain only natural ingredients. As an example, he shows the camera some pistachio gelato, which is a light greenish-brown color, and gets out a scoop of lemon-flavored gelato, which is white, not yellow. He expands on this by saying that proper gelato should be made with natural flavors that are in season; for example, strawberry gelato should be made during the strawberry season.

His next tip was to avoid the admittedly fun-looking mountains of gelato. Good gelato should be served in a metal tray, and the top should be in line with the top of the tray. Kacie Rose goes into more detail on her blog, Kacie Rose Travel, stating that if the gelato is standing up out of its tray, something will have been added to make sure it doesn't melt. Good gelato does not contain additives. A mountain also means that the gelato probably isn't super fresh, she writes, as few shops will sell that much every day. Back on her TikTok, she points out the metal containers with lids in Antonio's store and says that those mean the gelato is really good. Antonio adds that if a mountain of gelato is sprinkled with decorative elements, like coffee beans, it's a no-no. 

The taste test and the price

The blog I Heart Italy has more advice. First, ask to taste the gelato before you buy it. Specifically, you should ask to try the pistachio gelato because this is the most expensive gelato to produce if it's made with natural ingredients (i.e., real pistachios). If it doesn't taste good, walk away; if it does, the likelihood is that every other flavor will be delicious too.

Another piece of advice on that blog is to look for signs that say the following: gelato in casa, fatto in casa, or gelato artigianale. The first two mean the gelato is homemade and the last means that it's artisanal. Finally, Kacie Rose writes on her blog that you shouldn't be looking for the most expensive gelato on your trip to Italy. Even in the most touristy cities, good gelato shouldn't cost more than €3 per scoop. Basically, if you see a mountain of whipped, bright green pistachio gelato for €8 per scoop, run.