Saturday, November 19, 2016
After 35 flavors of blog posts about Roman Gelaterias, starting way back before my trip with a discussion of my dazzlement over the sheer plenitude of raved over gelato places in Rome, running through my cracking the code of Internet gelateria reviews (even the worst gelaterias get pretty good reviews because, well, it's Rome, and it's still gelato!). I wrote imaginary posts before my trip about gelato that posted up on the Internet while I actually was eating gelato in Rome (a device that caused much confusion among my readers). I came back from Rome, heartbroken to have left, and found that all I could really write at first about Rome was gelato. I wrote about my methodology for studying the gelato of Rome. I gave an overview for the gelato of Rome. And I talked about the limitations of any comprehensive Roman gelato study.
I hinted at my favorite gelaterias, my ecstatic experiences in Roman gelato eating, and my favorite flavors of gelato. Then I promised I would finally get down to it. I would finally talk directly about the gelaterias of Rome, naming names and talking about their flavors.
And then for a few days I couldn't do it.
Was I trying to build up suspense?
No. I really don't think anyone out there cares that much.
Was there something more vital for me to discuss?
I am sure you could answer that for yourself by perusing my brief posts from the past few days concerning local county initiatives.
Was it too much of an ending? Was completing my study of Roman gelaterias a kind of closing a book on this trip and putting it sadly into history?
And I'm not happy about it. But there's nothing else to be done.
Unless maybe I can split this into two blog posts. Yes, yes, I'll split it into two blog posts!
But I won't keep you in suspense about it, and I won't split it by putting in a bunch of filler, except in the normal sense of how here on clerkmanifesto, the filler is the point.
So later I'll do my best at a complete rundown of the gelaterias I explored, but today I'll hand out my awards. If you are going to Rome for a day or two or three, my awards should be all you need to get you to the best gelato in Rome.
Best Gelateria in Rome
Come Il Latte (Silvio Spaventa, 24)
Come Il Latte is not in the very center of things so one has to make a little trip to get there, though it is at least still a walkable trip from the center of the city. They specialize in an absolute creaminess and their smooth Pistachio was a surprise and revelation to me. But there is a purity to their gelato that inched them (ever so barely) above everyone else, ever, anywhere. Oddly this best manifested in the whipped cream I got on top of my cup. I've never tasted anything like it. It sang. It was better than delicious. Did you know there was a "better than delicious"? It's a very interesting discovery to make.
One month, dozens of gelatos, and if I had to pick the best, and it turns out I do, this was it.
Best Gelato flavor in Rome
Lavender at La Strega Nocciola (V. D. Vite, 100)
It may just be me but I really took to the flower flavored gelatos in Rome. But regardless of strange flavors, normal flavors, complicated flavors, mixing flavors, or simple flavors, this, the lavender at La Strega Nocciola, was the single most enjoyable and delicious gelato I had in Rome. If taking a bit of a walk out of the very center of Rome is not going to work for you, this agreeably located gelateria, near but not too near to the Spanish Steps, will be nearly as good a one to try as Come Il Latte. Its relatively quiet street (for the area) means there's usually not too bad a line either. Grab one of their bookmarks too, they have the best gelateria logo in the world.
San Crispino (Piazza Della Maddelena 3)
Many years ago when we first went to Rome we ate gelato every chance we had at the San Crispino near the Trevi Fountain. At the time it was easily the most popular and revered gelateria in Rome. At some point this second branch opened. And at some point as well San Crispino's slightly snooty perfection alienated people at the same time as other comparably perfect places opened up in the center city. Their star fell. Now just one small lovely Piazza up from the Pantheon there is a virtually always uncrowded San Crispino that is as fantastically good and perfect as ever, outclassing all but a few Roman gelaterias, but now to a more modest acclaim.
Gelateria Del Viale (Piazza Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, 9)
My wife and I have long had a chip on our shoulders about Trastevere and on this 30 day trip we did not spend much time there until the end. Then I realized a crucial key to Trastevere: I love Trastevere, but during the day and not at all at night. It's like it's a werewolf or something. Go figure. And I'm glad we did figure because Gelateria Del Viale, just over the Ponte Garibaldi in Trastevere, is within all but meaningless inches of being as good as any of the above gelaterias. Which is to say that if you go here and to none of the others you'll be fine. I got a lot of flavors that weren't really made to go together, but it didn't matter. They were pure and smooth. The rose flavor sticks in my mind and won't leave. I would like to try it again and think about it for a long long while.
La Strega Nocciola (V. D. Vite, 100)
See above award for best flavor. Easy choice.
Bonus interruptive comments:
These were the four great gelaterias of Rome for me, the ones on the same, highest level: Come Il Latte, La Strega Nocciola, San Crispino, and Gelateria Del Viale. I am sure I missed some that were on this level, and there are also a few that I would have liked to give another chance to, feeling I might not have made the best flavor choices or gotten them at their best or remembered them quite so well. So I will continue with the neighborhood awards with the understanding that these following places are great, but on a level just a little below the highest tier above, at least pending more investigation:
Gelateria Del Teatro (Via dei Coronari, 65-66)
Super popular, watch out for those lines at peak time. They had beautifully made gelato and interesting flavors (half a dozen chocolates!). They were clearly great, but my truffle ice cream was full of stuff and not a clear enough experience and taste for me. I needed another stop here (that I didn't manage get) in order to know for sure what I really thought of them.
Gelateria Dei Gracchi (Via di Ripetta, 261)
It turns out I like my gelato distilled, pure and temple like. I want flavor but without all that texture. Dei Gracchi has the flavor, and you know its full of real fruit for instance, but you will crunch down on that pear texture when you are eating a pear gelato. But then I'm not so absolutely sure what I like because this stuff was really good, texture and all.
Campo de Fiore
Carapina (V. D. Chiavari, 37)
This choice surely best demonstrates the failure of my notes (or, more truly, the failure of my lack of notes). I know I liked Carapina a lot. It was early in the trip, I loved it but had no context for how good Carapina was in relation to other places. I have warm feelings towards them. I am happy to recommend them as the best of that area, but as to what I had there, or what it was like, well, nope, nothing. I haven't a clue.
Strangest Gelato flavor in Rome
Parmesan at Origini Gelato (V. D. Gesu 73)
I was really interested in odd gelato flavors, including savory flavors. I read about a famed gelato maker named Claudio Torce who specializes in this field. Unfortunately I did not get to the proper Claudio Torce shop, rather just to one that sold a collection of his more mundane flavors (I think that's what it was- see below). So I'm saying there are surely odder flavors out there, but this was the best of it as my encounters went, a pretty tasty, very textured organic gelato made with Parmesan cheese. It was, okay. Origini, across from the art store back behind Sopra Minerva (wander in for the Michelangelo that's just----fucking----sitting-----there!!!!) makes a very nice gelato and I appreciate their getting funky when they didn't have to.
Worst Gelato in Rome
Il Gelato Di Claudio Torce (Piazza del Risorgimento, 51)
No doubt there are hundreds of places worse than this. I was only seeking out the best in Rome. I really wanted to try Claudio Torce whose name gets bandied about a lot in Roman Gelato discussions. Unfortunately his shops have a ragged history about town. I think the main one, the real one, is near the Circo Massimo, and though I should've fairly gone there, I didn't make it. That one is probably fresh and full of his famed unique and savory flavors. But I found reference to this one near the Vatican and it turned out to be easy to track down one day and try as an alternative. It seemed more like a mildly unpleasant shop that was carrying his gelato, perhaps delivered in once or twice a week. The flavors were traditional. The gelato dense and too hard and full of icy bits. It was my worst gelato in Rome.
So, was it really bad? No, it wasn't that bad. It's gelato.