Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Italy Part 10: Gelato

Sitting in front of Caffe' delle Carrozze with nothing but a thin railing between us and the busy street

Vivoli's superb Gelato

So I have officially been ruined.  Approximately six years ago, my journey to find the world's best ice cream began.  Much money was spent, countless bad ice creams relegated to the trash, until I finally found what I considered then to be The World's Best vanilla ice cream.  The clear winner was Edy's "Dreamery" Vanilla, with Ben & Jerry's "Vanilla For A Change" coming in at a close second.

Very unfortunately, it seems that both ice creams are no longer available.  However, I have now found a frozen delight created in the way that God must have intended.

To say that Gelato tastes good is grievous understatement.

Before departing for our trip to Florence, we had read of two places purported to serve the world's best ice cream, so it was with great anticipation that we set out to find these establishments.  But first, to paint a small picture: gelato stands in Florence are as common as pizza parlors in New York City, and similarly, often a-dime-a-dozen.  But to really experience the best the city has to offer, I would argue that there are two places where one should experience this wonderfulness.

The first is Vivoli, set on a small side street, three blocks down from the bustling piazza surrounding the Santa Croce cathedral.  The second is Carrozze's, located on the South side of the Ponte Vecchio bridge.  Each establishment served similar menus of carefully crafted flavors; Vivoli's pulled slightly ahead with flavors such as Riso (rice) and Chestnut, but Carazza's fruit flavors were pure and true (no milk in the fruit recipes, making them especially intense).

The Italian's substitution for American "plain vanilla" is something they call "Crema", which in all actuality , as far as we could taste, contained no vanilla at all, choosing instead to focus on the richness of the cream flavor.  This has now become my all time favorite -- one might describe it as a heart-stopping combination of heavy cream and eggs, with a taste sensation instantly calling to mind legions of angels trumpeting Hallelujah Chorus medleys... swooping vistas... ancient meadows... well, you get the picture.

Another flavor (already mentioned above), is Riso, which I can best compare to the richest, sweetest rice pudding I've ever had, complete with grains of rice throughout.  Definitely one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth.  Period.

Then, came the fruit flavors.  Let's just say, a few days after returning from Italy, I had a spoonful of Hagen Das Strawberry, a respectable flavor in itself, and I almost literally gagged when it hit my tongue.  The fruit flavors in Italy tasted just like the fruit they represented, perfectly ripe and bursting with natural sweetness.  Favorites were Strawberry and Kiwi.

A few other flavors worth mentioning, although not personal favorites, were Roca, Burnt Caramel Pear, Pistacchio, Nocciola (Hazelnut), Mirtillo (Blueberry), and Blood Orange.

A salute to Strawberry!

Both gelaterias also served lunch menus, making them a perfect place to spend an afternoon, although we usually began with the ice cream.

Inside Vivoli's

I've told this to Faith, and I'm dead serious: I would literally buy a plane ticket just to fly to Florence, have a dish of ice cream, then fly back.  It is that good.

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Anonymous said...

Book me a flight to Florence!


Mom2Zoey said...

That looks and sounds amazing! ~A

Anonymous said...

Hey guys! We've had fun reading about your globe trotting adventures. Your kids are so beautiful (and handsome). We sure do miss you here in Columbus.

Chase and Amanda