Everyone has the fantasy of visiting Rome. For me, those fantasies are only complete with an accessory in hand. A tasty one: ice cream. Blame Audrey Hepburn on roman holidays, the film that celebrated freedom and la dolce vita. Fortunately, my fantasy is easily recreated. In almost every neighborhood in the city I can have amazing ice cream. Here are the places I recommend, complete with flavor recommendations.
This is the source of one of my earliest ice cream memories. I first saw GROM in the northern Italian city of Turin, where the first branch of the ice cream parlor was located.
it’s found. His name caught my attention, it sounded like something out of a fairy tale. Yet it is very real. One of the most renowned ice cream parlors in Italy, with branches all over the Boot, including several in Rome, including Piazza Navona and Roma Maddalena. GROM uses quality ingredients such as Venezuelan chocolate, fresh milk, free-range eggs, and fruits from around the world. Despite their many branches, they maintain consistent quality.
Flavor recommendations: My favorite flavors include pistachio and their signature crema di GROM – custard, chocolate chip and GROM meliga cookies.
The oldest ice cream parlor in Rome, Palazzo del Freddo Giovanni Fassi (or Giovanni Fassi’s Frozen Palace), opened in 1880 and has been in its current location since 1928. I love going to this palatial ice cream parlor, but truth be told Bliss, I feel like a trespasser because it seems Fassi is a local favorite where many ice cream-filled childhood memories were formed.
Flavor recommendations: Today, Fassi produces a thousand kilos of ice cream every day, including my favorite, pistachio, and their signature “sampietrini,” little morsels of chocolate-covered ice cream named after the Roman term for cobblestones.
This ice cream parlor was founded in 1890, which makes it one of the oldest still existing in Rome and one of the most famous (thanks to roman holidays). It is also used to supply ice cream to the Italian Royal Family. He still carries a sense of seriousness about it. Old men in white lab coats wait on you. Giolitti is a Roman icon and attracts a lot of tourists, making it more expensive than other hidden gems of ice cream parlors. However, it’s worth a visit (or two) and worth the splurge for quality ice cream and unique flavors.
Flavor recommendations: Some of my Giolitti favorites include gelato allo zabaione (a traditional flavor made with egg yolk and Marsala wine) and their signature rice flavor. With so much on offer, I usually get three scoops which they cleverly arrange horizontally.
Otaleg is ice cream spelled backwards and the master gelato maker behind this little shop, Marco Radicioni, uses the highest quality ingredients (don’t take my word for it, the gelato is made before your eyes in the shop on Piazza San Cosimato).
Flavor recommendations: Traditional flavors like pistachio, lemon, dark chocolate, and tiramisu are always on offer, but you should also try some of their enveloping flavors like almond, dried fruit, walnut, and blood orange. I cherish a sweet (and salty) memory of their cherry jam-flavored pecorino in a salty cone, as well as the honey milk cream ice cream. It was like cheese and crackers with jam. These are ice creams for adults!
5. Come Il Latte
One of the newer gelaterias on the scene, Come il Latte, near Rome’s central train station, has been making ultra-creamy gelato every day since 2011, but it’s already established itself as a city favorite. Come il Latte increases the cream content in their ice cream, using 60 to 70 percent milk, which they combine with seasonal fruits or chocolate and nuts. It’s topped with more dairy goodness: fresh whipped cream.
Flavor recommendations: My favorite flavors here include ricotta with pistachio and orange, fig, or persimmon. When I want a complete meal in the form of ice cream, I choose the soft blue cheese, honey and nuts.
6. San Crispino ice cream
A coin toss from the Trevi Fountain, Il Gelato di San Crispino is another ice cream icon whose fame has spread far beyond. This is where Julia Roberts bought her ice cream Eat Pray Love, so it’s quite popular. Watching the movie, I saw that there was a bit of artistic license in the ice cream scene: San Crispino refuses to sell ice cream in cones. He only offers it in cups, as he doesn’t want to divert his taste buds from the ice cream flavor one iota.
Günther Rohregger is a stranger who has revolutionized frozen Roman verse. This gelato master hails from the Italian Alps and brought his small batch of organic gelato to the capital in 2012. Some of Rohregger’s unique flavors include pino mugo made with pine needles, and he makes a superb grand marnier with rich chocolate, liqueur and candied orange peels and the same microfiltered organic milk cream that he uses in all his ice creams. He also makes an interesting salty caprese ice cream. He will even do ice cream pairings. This place is on every serious ice cream connoisseur’s bucket list.
8. Pica Alberto
This little snack bar/pastry/ice cream shop in the historic center looks a bit nondescript from the outside. Inside, polished wood walls, chandeliers, and velvet chairs (there are outdoor patio seats) hint at how seriously Alberto Pica takes himself, and he might as well be the one to pick up your order.
Flavor recommendations: Pica and its ice cream have a following in the city, and their rice pudding flavored ice cream with real chunks of rice is a specialty here. The more traditional flavors like chocolate and coffee are also delicious.
Frigidarium is an ice cream parlor on a cobbled street (sampietrini) near Campo di Fiori. I like to come and sit and enjoy the lovely surroundings while enjoying their delicacies, which include classic and inventive flavors like dark cherry and Fiorentina cream. Their signature Frigidarium, made with Pan di Stelle chocolate cookies, is my favorite. Heavenly.
As the name suggests, this ice cream parlor looks like a laboratory and the owners are very hands on. However, while it has an experimental feel to it, the ice cream made has a sure sense of traditional craftsmanship and I’ve found the prices to be reasonable here.
10. Teatro Gelateria
This place is incredibly classy. Its cones are made with olive oil. Need I say more? Yes? Ok, they use fine herbs and spices, as well as quality chocolate and fresh fruits in their ultra-creamy ice cream. The flavors? Ricotta cheese, fig and almond make for a silky, textured treat.
Flavor recommendation: My favorite is one of their specialties, not only because of its delicious flavor, but because it evokes ancient Rome. That’s what it’s called: Vecchia Roma. It is a combination of ricotta cheese, cherries and butter crumble. It is based on a traditional cake from the Jewish ghetto, one of the primary sources of Roman cuisine.
Pro Ice Cream Tips
Most ice cream parlors have a wide variety of flavors ranging from seasonal fruits like figs or cherries to classics like stracciatella (chocolate chips). The best ice cream has intense flavors. Pear ice cream tastes like a pear! Chocolate is deeply rich and sensual, more than just a load of sugar!
The scoops of ice cream are smaller than the ice cream we are used to in the US. You don’t need to eat as much because ice cream generally has less sugar and less air.
Roman ice cream makers think of themselves and are considered by the local population as artisans, and as such, they are obsessed with quality and freshness. They are intensely proud and competitive about the quality of their product.
This is not to say that all ice creams are the same. Some ice cream makers lack integrity and use artificial colors and flavors. So how do you find a good ice cream parlor spot? For starters, avoid anything where ice cream is piled up. While these all-too-common gimmicks tend to draw you in, more often than not it’s a sign that the ice cream isn’t great quality for the simple reason that the actual ice cream is too thick to mound. If the colors are so vivid that they appear fake, they most likely are, to some degree.
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