Frozen Made Finer: Where Is the World’s Best Gelato?
Iconically Italian but with strong global representation, great gelato is a key ingredient of la dolce vita. Four Seasons insiders share their top sources.
I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself spooning up memorable gelato all around the globe, in places such as New York, Sydney and Singapore. Friends have tried to convince me that other unexpected destinations are home to the best, that I haven’t lived till I’ve tasted the wares at, say, Helados Scannapieco in Buenos Aires.
Gelato, which is simply Italian for “frozen,” has made its way all over.
Now, mind you, I have no quarrel with ice cream or indeed with frozen confections of almost any ilk, but gelato for me is “frozen” made finer. What’s the difference? Less air is added when making gelato than when making ice cream. Gelato uses more milk, less cream and often adds egg yolks. So the ambrosial outcome is denser, with more intense flavour and—miraculously—less fat. The fact that it’s best served slightly soft, and not quite as cold as everyday ice cream, just makes it that much easier to enjoy.
And while today it is possible to find great gelato in many parts of the world, the modern version was born, as so many wonders were, in Renaissance Italy. Most experts trace its origins to late 16th-century Florence, where the multi-talented Bernardo Buontalenti (also an architect, artist and stage designer) introduced his cool creation at a Medici feast.
Gelato in Florence
When it comes to where to find the world’s best gelato these days, it never hurts to start at the source, home each May to the Firenze Gelato Festival. So I asked Chef Concierge Paul Lydka and Sales Assistant Veronica Neu of Four Seasons Hotel Firenze which local spot gets their vote. “We’re always arguing about this,” says Paul. He prefers the Gelateria La Carraia, just across the Ponte alla Carraia. “What’s nice to do is to go there, especially in the evenings, around sunset, and get your gelato and sit on the bridge, and you have the skyline of Florence in front of you.” His favourite flavour? “I’m old-fashioned,” he says. “I like stracciatella [similar to chocolate chip ice cream]. I could just have that for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Veronica prefers the interesting flavours at Grom, a Torino native with outposts around Italy and elsewhere, and Gelateria della Passera in Piazza della Passera, where the focus is on the freshest ingredients—I can personally vouch for the quality of the fragola (strawberry). Veronica prefers passion fruit flavour when she can find it.
On to Milan
Not content to stop with Florence (who says investigative journalism is dead?), I also took the question “Where is the world’s best gelato?” to Sales and Marketing Trainee Marta Bocca and Head Concierge Leonardo Bruscagin at Four Seasons Hotel Milano. Marta is very clear on her choice: Shockolat, on via Boccaccio. After careful consideration of the orange chocolate and hazelnut flavours, I believe she has made a very sound selection.
Leonardo, however, cannot settle the matter by recommending merely one shop. Like Veronica, he is a fan of Grom, which has several locations around town—he usually sticks with his favourite flavours of cioccolato and pistacchio. But he also likes Cremeria San Marco on via San Marco, and Bianco Latte on via Turati. And then there’s Le Tre Gazzelle on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. “When I am passing through there, I stop—always,” he says. “I remember one time with my wife, we passed in front and she asked me, ‘Why don’t you stop this time?’ She knows!”
Now it’s your turn. Whether it’s a shop you pass by regularly and just can’t resist, or one you visited only once on a fondly remembered vacation in Italy or elsewhere, where have you found the world’s best gelato?