If you have ever stepped foot in Italy, or at least tried Talenti from the grocery store, you know the utter majesty that is gelato. If this food of the Gods has yet to cross your deprived lips, let me lay it down for you.
Gelato is like ice cream but softer and dare I say, creamier. It is made with milk instead of cream, so it has less fat, yet the holy matrimony of the milk, sugar, and seasonal flavors has the power to awaken the deadest of souls.
Because gelato originated in Florence, Italy, I sat down with Vetulio Bondi, the owner of I Gelati del Bondi, during my time abroad. He opened his shop in the historical center of Florence in the ’80s, so he knows the trends through the years as well as the best gelato practices. Let me tell you, it was pretty damn enlightening.
If you find yourself in Florence, another region of Italy, or at these american gelato shops, here are some tips from a Florentine master.
1. Read the ingredients
Fresh, authentic gelato should not need any preservatives or extra fat. The main ingredient should be fresh milk and the sugar used should lead to a smooth, “warm” gelato, as opposed to something super sweet and cold, which was popular in the 80s.
Bondi prides himself in establishing strong relationships with the store’s hazelnut, pistachio, produce farmers. I caught a glimpse of a selfie of him and all his hazelnuts, and that is the kind of passion gelato-lovers deserve, my friend.
2. Order flavors that are in season
It is easy to overlook the environmental difference of ordering mango sorbet in the winter as opposed to pear. Bondi prefers serving in-season, local flavors to cut down on food miles. “In Europe, we try to follow the seasons, so in the summer, it is much better to eat the peach sorbet than the mango sorbet because the mangos will be coming from Brazil, so it can cause pollution and peach sorbet, melon sorbet, watermelon sorbet, and plum sorbet is amazing.” If you want to know what is in season when, here is a list. Read up and save the earth, yo.
3. “When you see a mountain, turn around”
Like any tourist destination, flashy fakes are everywhere. When looking for authentic gelato shops, steer clear of the mountain-high, neon window displays. These are often made with artificial flavors, colors, oil, and fat. You want to spend your time seeking out neutral-colored, simpler displays. Some places will cover the gelato with lids, which usually means they made it that morning.
If you find yourself in Florence, go visit my man Vetulio. He’s basically the coolest dude in Florence. Order the salted caramel, pistachio, hazelnut, or cherry; All primo.
Yes, he took a selfie with us. Yes, you should be very jealous.