05 June 2014

AUNTIE PASTA: A Taste of Summer - Gelato__

CHIAVARI, Italy – It’s five o’clock on a warm, Saturday afternoon in Chiavari. The benches in front of the gelato shops in the town’s historic center are crowded with fashionable young mothers spoon feeding gelato to their cooing, round-faced babies. 

 Tre Gusti - Three Flavors, One Cone
The older kids are gathered around their dads, all clutching handfuls of wrinkled paper napkins and ice cream cones of their own. The dads are doing their best to keep the kids from getting gelato all over themselves, but it doesn’t always work. The gelato usually wins.

If you have ever been to Italy you know that the gelato shops, gelaterie, are a force of nature. With showcases filled with tub after tub of creamy gelato in more colors and flavors than any one human could possible come up with. First they lure you in for a better look, and once in - you are hooked. Then you have to make some decisions: cup or cone? Two scoops or three? And what flavors do you want. Ahhh yes, the flavors. Now that’s the hard part. 
Oh My!
­A few years back, when I lived in the Milan suburb of Saronno, tourists were as rare as ghost orchids. Clerks in the local gelaterie were used to customers knowing what flavors they wanted on their three scoop cones, so service was quick and fast, with no delays caused by confused customers. Everyone had their favorites, and even before kids were out of middle school, they were masters of combining flavors that complemented each other. I’m not so good at that and often feel intimidated when some 12 year old steps up and orders coconut, chocolate and pistachio faster than I can say, “just crema please.” 

It’s not as if there are no gelato strategies to help with the dilemma. There are. You could taste three different flavors every day for an entire summer, or you could adopt this simple, but clever plan, devised by a group of American students. Every day they each bought a different flavor of gelato in a cup, and then they passed the cups around so everyone got a taste of all the flavors. Their goal was to taste every flavor of gelato in Santa Margherita Ligure before they went home. It was going to take some time, but no one seemed to mind.

Italy, Where a Cone is Not Just a Cone and a Cup is a Work of Art
Here are more than 40 of the most common gelato flavors that you will  find in any good Italian gelateria. It is by no means a complete list for every area has its own specialty flavors like the cinnamon and hot pepper-infused dark chocolate called cioccolato all’Azteca that is popular in Sicily, or gianduj, Piedmont’s  milk chocolate and hazelnut deliciousness. Also, you won’t find all the flavors all the time. Even with gelato, Italians tend to eat seasonally and many flavors are made with fresh ingredients, so no castagna (chestnut) ice cream in July and no anguria (watermelon) in November.  

The Flavors

cioccolato fondente (cho-koh-LAH-toh fawn-DEN-teh) – Dark chocolate.
cioccolato al latte (cho-koh-LAH-toh fawn den-teh) Milk chocolate
cioccolato bianco (cho-koh-LAH-toh BEE-ahn-koh) White Chocolate
bacio (BAH-cho) – hazelnut and chocolate. Named for the famous chocolate candies from Perugia
gianduja or gianduia (jahn-DOO-yah) –Milk chocolate and hazelnuts. Named for the famous chocolate candies from Turin  
cioccolato all’arancia (cho-koh-LAH-toh ahl-ah-RAHN-cha) – chocolate orange with either an orange flavor or candied bits of orange peel
cioccolato fondente (cho-koh-LAH—tay phone-dent-TAY – rich, dark chocolate.
cicoolato al latte (cho-koh-LAH-tay al LAH-tay) milk chocolate
cioccolato con peperoncino (cho-koh-LAH-toe con pep-per-rhone-CHINO) – hot pepper infused dark chocolate
cioccolato all’Azteca (cho-koh-LAH-toe ahl Oz-TECK- ca) cinnamon and hot pepper infused dark chocolate
Nutella (nu-TELL-ah)  made with that fabulous Italian chocolate and hazelnut spread  

pistacchio (pee-STAHK-yoh) – Pistachio  
mandorla (MAHN-door-lah) – Almond
nocciola (noh-CHO-lah) – Hazelnut with no chocolate
fior di latte (fyor dee LAH-tay) – Literally milk’s flower. Kind of like cream, kind of like vanilla, but not either one 
crema (KREH-mah) –  Sweet cream,  vanilla
zabaione (zah-bah-YOH-nay) – Frozen version of zabaglione
caffè (kah-FAY) –  Coffee
crem caramel (crem-CARA-mel) cream with swirls of caramel
panna cotta – (pah-nah-KAW-tah) – literally cooked cream – frozen version of Italian dessert
Yogurt (sometimes spelled jogurt) – yogurt

cocco (KOH-koh) – Coconut
amarena (ah-mah-RAY-nah) –  Cherries in fior di latte 
fragola (FRAH-go-lah) – Strawberry  
lampone (lahm-POH-nay) – Raspberry  
limone (lee-MOH-nay) – Lemon  
mandarino (mahn-dah-REE-noh) – Mandarin orange
melone (meh-LOH-nay) – Melon (usually cantaloupe)
albicocca (al-bee-KOH-kah) – Apricot
pompelmo (pom-PEL-mo) - Grapefruit
anguria –(an GUR-ri-ah) Watermelon
fico (FEE-koh) – Fig
frutti di bosco (FROO-tee dee BOHS-koh) –  “forest fruits” like blueberries and blackberries.
mela (MEH-lah) – Apple (also look for mela verde (MEH-lah VEHR-day), or green apple)
pera (PEH-rah) – Pear
pesca (PEHS-kah) – Peach
kiwi – same as in English
menta – (men-TAH) Mint

zuppa inglese (TSOO-pah een-GLAY-zay)  “English soup,” frozen version of English trifle 
torroncino – tor-ron-CEE-no – made with torrone candy (also Torrone)
tiramisu – (TEE- rah-mee sue) Frozen version of famous Italian dessert
tartufo – (tar-TWO-foe) Tartufo
cassata – (kah-SAH-tah) Frozen version of famous Sicilian dessert
riso (REE-zoh) – Rice, kind of like rice pudding  
malaga (MAH-lah-gah) – Rum raisin
stracciatella (strah-cha-TEL-lah) – Fior di latte with chocolate bits 
liquirizia (lee-kwee-REE-tzee-ah) – Licorice 
cannella (kah-NEL-lah) – Cinnamon
maron glace’ (mah-rhon GLA-say) – cream with candied chestnuts
zabaglione – zah-bah-YEE-OWN-eh – Zabaglione
puffo (POOF-foh) – Literally “Smurf” – blue ice cream that may taste like licorice or bubble gum, depending on the shop 

The words: Produzione Propria, Nostra Produzione, mean homemade and Produzione Artigianale means “not mass produced in a big factory”.
More words to know:
Cono – (Koh-noh – plural coni - Koh-nee) cone
Coppa –(KOH-pah) cup
Gusto – (GOO-stoh – gusti  (plural – GOO-stee) – scoop or flavor – three gusti per cono/coppa is the norm.
Panna – (PAH–nah) whipped cream

Granite (grah-NEE-teh, flavored iced), Frappe (frahp-PEH, a type of milkshake) and Semifreddo (semi-FRAY-doh - soft ice cream)  

 → A Word of Warning – Before you buy check the price list that by law must be posted in all Italian gelaterie and ice cream stands on the street. Last tear some unsuspecting tourists  paid $38 for two regular size ice cream cones at a stand on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. The prices were listed, it was legal. 


  1. Hi
    Very interesting, helpful and funny piece. So, which of the (I suspect many) Chiavarian gelato shops would you recommend? I promise to pass my orders quickly when I visit this summer :-)
    Love your blog
    Claus, Copenhagen

  2. The ice cream shops in Chiavari make their own ice cream, and they are all good. That is pretty much true throughout Italy. The trick is to look for the words Produzione Propria, Nostra Produzione and Produzione Artigianale.Happy gelato hunting.