I lived in Italy on and off for about two years, maybe a little more. I lived in the north along the coast, I was nestled in the Tuscan and Umbrian hills, and I spent a summer on the southern shores. I’ve been to Sicily and Sardinia, and have explored pretty much everywhere in between. And the constant throughout my travels? Gelato.
Now, I’m not going to launch into a full on lesson on what gelato is and what makes it better, but basically, it’s fresher ingredients of a higher quality, and a lower melting point. Gelato is rich and dreamy, served up in sumptuously rich flavors like chocolate, or refreshing blends of strawberry and mint.
For a long time my favorite spot for gelato was Vivoli in Florence. On a recent trip to Rome, however, I realized my folly and fell head over heels with Giolitti.
Founded in 1890, Giolitti is Rome’s oldest ice cream parlor. There are two locations, one in Via Uffici del Vicario near the Pantheon, and nthe other in the E.U.R., the business district of Rome. Still owned by the same family, this cafe is famous for its gelato, which comes in dozens of flavores, including the rareties like champagne, ricotta, and rice (one of my favorites). Popular with both tourists and locals, this is one of the best gems in Italy.
The space is very old world, Grand Tour, with lots of period charm and detail. It’s been here forever, and it’s been meticulously maintained over the generations. You can sit at the tables inside or outside, although there will be a cover charge to sit down. We grabbed our ice cream and headed down the street to sit in front of a church, since the weather was particularly nice.
I opted for a three flavor cone of rice, strawberry, and chocolate fondant. Um, can I get that in a to go gallon, please and thank you. The chocolate was incredibly rich and seductive, a full bodied dark chocolate that was rich without being too heavy, and was like velvet. The strawberry was bright and fresh and crisp, without being overly sweet. The rice, one of my favorite flavors in Italy, is more of a rice pudding, and adds a creaminess without a heavy flavor or weight of regular “cream” flavors. The trio is one of my favorite combinations, and I would highly recommend it.