I had been trying to resist or at least hold off exploring the gelaterias of Rome lest I create a four visit a week habit (which has happened to me in the past) and return home after four months ten pounds heavier than when I left.
That was going well until last week.
Friday afternoon I took a few of my classmates from the language school I have been attending on a tour of a few of my favorite churches in the city: the Gesu (the first Jesuit church in Rome), Saint Ignatius of Loyola (a church built after the death of Ignatius, once he was made a saint), both of which have fantastic painted ceilings; and to San Luigi dei Francesi (the French National Church) to see the three paintings by the notorious Caravaggio in the Contarelli Chapel depicting scenes from the life of Saint Mathew.
After our tour, my classmates insisted on taking me for gelato at one of their favorite gelaterias.
They took me to Gelateria della Palma, Via della Maddalena 20, near the Pantheon. Della Palma has over 100 flavors, ranging from the classic—pistachio and nocciola (hazelnut)—to the more Americanized ‘snickers’. (But, more on this place when I visit again later). Needless to say, a few spoonfuls of my combination frutti di bosco (which means: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, currents, etc combined) and crème caramel and resistance was futile. I realized I was going to have to start exploring the gelaterias in Rome (perhaps not four times a week) without delay. Afterall, I do have visitors coming beginning mid-February, and it seems important to be able to lead them to some of the cities best gelaterias.
So, I began my tour with another place, also close to the Pantheon, which seems to be a locus of good gelato. Its called Fiocco di Neve (Snowflake) and is located at Via del Pantheon 51. It’s a tiny place but after standing back on the corner for a few minutes to size-up the clientele and noticing it was only locals, I suspected this might be a place to try.
At this point, I would love to provide a history of gelato, but there seems to be a debate on the origins (Chinese or Italian, I think there is a similar debate over spaghetti) so I will have to research this further and add it to another post on gelato. In the meantime, I can offer an explanation of the difference between gelato and what we call ‘ice cream’ in the US. Gelato is made primarily with whole milk and has a richer flavor because it contains less air and is kept at a lower temperature (almost semi-frozen).
To return to Fiocco di Neve, as you can see in the pictures, the selection is not enormous as you might find in some of the larger places, but to my mind, this suggests they are focusing their energies on getting a few flavors right. Since I am doing a gelato tour of sorts, I decided that I should depart from my standards like stracciatella (the Italian version of chocolate chip but so much better as it combines a flavor called fior di latte and chocolate shavings) and pistachio and I tried Crema di Nona (Grandmother’s Cream) and something called Spagnolo which you can see in one of the pictures—it is cream colored with swirls of red. Spagnolo seems to be a combination of a cream flavor and cherry with actual pieces of cherry. Crema di Nona was a rich, cream flavor with a hint of caramel—an ideal partner for Spagnolo.
Stay tuned for further entries on my gelato tour.
Also, this weekend is Carnival and based on the number of people already scattering confetti around the streets and little girls I’ve seen in princess costumes, this promises to be something worth writing about so stay tuned.