Italian ice cream parlors; gelati, sorbetti and granitas
It is difficult to walk through any city in Italy and not find an ice cream parlor on every street, especially in the most touristy areas. This true passion for ice cream of the Italians makes them consume them at all hours, and not only as dessert, and throughout the year, not only in summer, when the heat is on. Italian ice cream parlors are among the best in the world, and most of them are artisanal, using high-quality fruit juices and raw materials.
The origin of ice cream is somewhat confusing, it is said that the richest Romans already enjoyed taking snow down from the mountains to make frozen preparations. In Sicily, the Arabs mixed the Etna snow with fruit purees to obtain “sorbetto”, frozen sorbets. During the industrial revolution in the 19th century, many blacksmiths in the vicinity of Venice found themselves out of work and began to mass-produce ice cream. Today, 80% of manufacturers still come from this area.
The different types of Italian ice cream are worth explaining. Gelati mantecati are the classic ice creams, based on eggs, milk or cream, sugar and flavorings. They are very creamy and we can find very varied flavors. The semifreddo are the same as the mantecati, but with triple the fat, based on eggs, sugar and whipped cream. The sorbetto does not contain milk or cream, only fruit, water and sugar, sometimes some liquor, and they are passed through the ice cream maker until they are very creamy.
The granita, what we call slushies, is more typical of the south, made with fresh fruit juice (lemon, orange, mint, melon, etc.) passed through the ice cream maker, but preserving a grainy texture of the ice crystals. They are also made with coffee. In Sicily there is cremolata, based on fruit pulp, water and sugar, frozen until obtaining a very fine slush, which is traditionally accompanied with a type of sponge cake.
Italian ice cream parlors are a treat for the senses, as the ice creams are presented in very attractive ways on small frozen mountains, artistically decorated. The best thing is to ask for a cookie “cornet”, which also come in many types and shapes, and always combining two flavors.
Fashions are also influencing ice cream, and ice cream artisans are continually inventing new flavors, such as pear and gorgonzola ice cream, pumpkin, almond and coffee or ricotta and pear ice cream. You dare?