The Best in Rome
Rome's Ice Cream Bars
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.
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. Its 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 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. With the smallest order you get a choice of three flavors. The pear and meringue are among our favorites. Open 10:00 to 22:00 Closed Tuesday.
Via della Panettteria, 42 tel 06.67 93 924 (Trevi fountain)
Via Acia, 56 tel. 06.70 45 0412 (San Giovanni)
Via Bevagna, 90 tel. 06.33 22 1075 (Flaminio)
La Fonte della Salute
The name, meaning fountain of health, is entirely misleading. Although some flavors are available in soy ice cream and frozen yogurt, the offerings here are as sinful as you like. There's an outdoor seating area for those who want to relax over a frosty cone or cup.
Via Cardinale Marmaggi 2, (just off Viale di Tratsevere between Piazza Sonnino and Piazza Mastai)
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.