Real Gelato vs the Fake stuff (and how to spot it)

It’s time to cool off with one of Italy’s most famous desert….Gelato. It’s hot outside and you’ve just spent the afternoon walking [what could be the length of  an actual marathon] all over Rome. You waltz into a Gelateria and start narrowing down your choices: Pistachio, stracciatella, hazelnut, or hell, why not all three? [#YOLO] You quickly become overwhelmed looking at the giant mounds of brightly colored gelato perfectly displayed in front of you. So many options.  So little time. What do you choose? You probably can’t go wrong… They must all be good… It IS Italian Gelato… Right ?


Ladies and gentleman, not all Gelato is created equal and most likely – unless you know your gelato – you’ve been duped.  A whopping 80% of gelato in Italy is fake. Shocking, I know.  Don’t waste your calories on fake, artificial gelato. I mean, you ARE in Italy for heavens sake… take the time to find the good stuff.  Trust me, it WILL be worth it.

I was fortunate enough to take an amazing (and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) food tasting tour with Eating Italy Food Tour where our knowledgeable guide taught us how to become spot the good vs the bad when it comes to gelato. We became Masters of Gelato. For the remainder of my vacation I casually strolled into various gelato shop in Rome, turned up my nose at what I saw, and sashayed out of the shop feeling like a true Gelato Aficionado.

Ready to become a pro? Here’s how to spot the fake stuff:

1. When the Gelato looks like Mount Everest; RUN. Real gelato is not fluffy. Real gelato does not sit in a giant mound. If it’s piled up higher than the eye can see its usually full of stabilizers to make it stand tall and pretty. Real gelato is like pudding, it flattens over time. Real gelato sits nice and flat in a metal bin and is usually not even visible to the naked eye. You need to actually walk up to the counter and look down to see the flavors. A good Gelateria knows they don’t need to entice you by the look of their gelato. There are no bells, no whistles, and definitely no fluffy clouds of gelato here. Their gelato is good -damn good- and everyone who’s tried it knows it. (Want to know some of my favorite Gelaterias in Rome? Go on and keep reading…)

2. Just say NO to bright green pistachio. Bright yellow banana? No such thing! Fruit gelato should be the color of the actual fruit. [ now that’s a concept! ] Have you ever seen a bright yellow banana in real life? (I’m not talking about the peel, duh) Real gelato is the color of whatever ingredient it’s made with. It might look a little bland compared to the knock off version but trust me; the taste, texture, and ingredients are all better.

3. Location, location, location! Okay, so this one isn’t 100% true but from my experience some of the best Gelato is located on hidden streets far from most tourist hotspots. If you’ve just finished a tour at the Colosseum, and want to find the nearest place for a nice cold scoop of Gelato, you’ll most likely run into a shop selling an imitation. They know how to prey on hungry tourists looking to satisfy their cravings. To find the good, family run, true gelato, you need to go on a hunt for it! It’s actually part of the fun… trying to navigate the streets of Rome (or whatever city you’re in) looking for the hidden gelato gem. It becomes an adventure and who knows what you may discover along the way.

Here are some of my favorite Gelato shops in Rome:

-Gelateria Fatamorgana : The real deal. NO questions asked. The best gelato winner year after year! If you’re tired of the same flavors found in other shops (think hazelnut, pistachio, or stracciatella) and you want something to really make your tastebuds go wild, definitely come here. Unique and almost crazy flavors are their specialty! (They still have the traditional flavors which are just as good) My favorites: Basil, Chocolate and Tobacco, pumpkin, and Baklava. I ALWAYS end my last night in Rome at this Gelateria – It’s a tradition now! Locations: Piazza degli Zingari, 5 (Monti), Via Bettolo, 7 (Prati), Via Roma Libera, 11 (Trastevere), Via Laurina, 10 (Via del Corso), Via Aosta 3 (Re di Roma)

-Giolitti: The oldest family run Gelateria in Rome! It’s a little nerve wrecking ordering gelato here but that’s what makes it so fun! First, you pay for your gelato at the cashier. Then, you fight your way through the crowd of locals and tourists to make your order. After throwing a few elbows and frantically waving your hands around like a crazed baboon you’ll get the workers attention and finally come out victorious with a perfect cup of gelato, guaranteed. Best flavor there? Definitely try cream or caramelized pear. It. Is. Out. Of. This. World. Locations: Via Uffici del Vicario, 40 (Pantheon); Viale Oceania, 90 (Eur)

-Gelateria del Teatro: Nothing to hide here! You can watch the gelato being made daily from a large window. Favorite flavor? Ricotta with almonds and figs. I came back for seconds, it was THAT good. Locations: Via dei Coronari, 65-66, (centro storico); Lungotevere dei Vallati, 25,(centro storico).

Writing this post has me SERIOUSLY craving Gelato right now!!! Anyone else feel like buying a plane ticket to Rome? Who’s with me?