Anne's Blog

How to Choose a Great Gelato

Date: August 24, 2011 - categories: , - 2 Comments

<em>Gelati artigianali</em>, Bar Gardenia

Gelati artigianali, Bar Gardenia

On a hot day, at the end of an Umbrian tour – after taking in the art and history of our medieval hilltown gems – I’ll often say to my tour guests, “Now I have to share with you some very important information: how to choose the best gelato.” Seems to me essential information for anyone touring in Italy in the warmer months. Thankfully, most of my tour guests agree.

We’ll head to a gelateria di produzione artigianale (“of artisan production”, ie, made from scratch) – no other type of gelateria can even be considered. I’ll point to the stainless steels trays of gelato, artistically displayed in sculpted mounds, saying simply, “Look at the fragola (strawberry) – it will always be your litmus paper.” You should always see the tiny black seeds of the strawberry – and hopefully, LOTS of them. What does that tell you?
<em>Gelato alla fragola</em>, Bar Gardenia, Cardillo (Palermo)

Gelato alla fragola, Bar Gardenia, Cardillo (Palermo)

This gelateria makes its fragola with fresh strawberries, its limone with freshly-squeezed lemon juice and uses juicy peaches in its gelato di pesca, ripe cantaloupes in its melone.

No gelato tops that of Sicily – where no serious gelataio would ever use milk when making fruit-flavored gelati. We’ve been doing gelato-tastings all over during this trip to Sicily – but as always, we don’t really need to wander far from home: Bar Gardenia in Cardillo, an outlying area of Palermo (once home of husband Pino and still home of most of his family) has been putting out some of the best for 30 years. Logicamente, crushed hazelnuts give the flavor to the nocciola and they use only freshly-brewed espresso coffee in the gelato di caffé – of the best quality. The Sicilians know their coffee.

<em>Gelato al pistacchio</em>, Bar Gardenia

Gelato al pistacchio, Bar Gardenia

…and what pistacchio! The color of the gelato di pistacchio flavor is another cue to the quality of the gelati: it should never be a bright green (indicating artificial flavors used and food colors) but rather the un-attractive pea green of the wonderful pistacchios of Bronte, Sicily, Italy’s best. My ice-cream choice is always un cono di nocciola e pistacchio.

Pino never veers from limone e fragola. What strawberry at Bar Gardenia: I’ve never seen so many tiny black seeds…

Click here to read about our motorcycle trip to Mt. Etna – and Bronte (famed for pistachios- and pistachio pesto!)

Click here to read about the island of Ustica (and more Silician flavors – recipe, too!)


  • Rosemary says:

    Anne, You are absolutely right! Nothing compares with the foods of Sicily!!! You brought me back to the six months we lived in Marina di Ragusa on the southeast coast of the island. You must know of the cannoli and chocolates of Modica as well! Buonissimi! I want to return so badly! Maybe next year….

  • Rosemary, thanks for your note! And yes, I do love that chocolate of Modica and all the Baroque wonders of Ragusa Modica, and of course Noto.

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