Thursday, June 14, 2018
Fatamorgana: greatest gelateria of Rome
I must confess that it pains me just a little that the single greatest gelateria I have ever been to, the greatest ice cream I have ever eaten, the triumph in my exhaustive study of Roman gelato eating, aye the greatest gelateria in Rome, and all with a bit of room to spare, is Fatamorgana.
There are a few reasons for these feelings of irksomeness:
1. It is a chain. I hate that it is a chain, albeit a minor chain. It appears to have several locations throughout Rome and, get this, one on Ventura Blvd in L.A.; a street that I more or less grew up on. I do not believe that the Ventura Blvd one could be up to the Campo De' Fiori one's standard, but it's certainly possible. Fatamorgana defies human understanding.
2. It looks like pretty much any run of the mill Rome gelateria. That's a pretty charming standard, but still...
3. The counter help was... uninspiring. Oh, they weren't mean, or rude, they were just colorless and bland and uninterested.
So did all this leave a bad taste in my mouth?
Noooooooo! Because of all the good tastes in my mouth. There were too many good tastes in my mouth!
I don't know how Fatamorgana does it. I swear to you it must be sorcery.
I am suggesting that someone may have sold their soul to the devil here.
Look, I have been to quite a few great Roman Gelaterias: Come Il Latte, San Crispino, La Strega Nocciola, and dear little Gelateria Del Viale, and great gelaterias do this: They make fresh, consistently excellent flavors, occasionally they might have one creative, off the beaten path flavor that actually works, and once every 15 or 20 flavors these masters of gelato transcend, they extract the essence of a fruit or flavor, bringing it to its brilliant, singing Platonic ideal. Lavender at La Strega, Pistachio (and whipped cream!) at Come Il Latte, Rose at Del Viale. These are flavors that fill one with wonder.
But at Fatamorgana they achieve transcendence not with one or two flavors, but with a full third of all their flavors. They put out their own weird and inventive flavors in a handful, and then they achieve transcendence with those. Avocado lime, Banana sesame, Pear Gorgonzola may look to be gimmicks at first, but they are among the best things I have ever eaten. But these work only because of their deep mastery. Their cherry was a Caravaggio level rendering of the true flavor of the sour cherry, satisfying, hiding nothing, illuminating all to full effect. The banana, oh the banana. Long have I counted banana as my favorite ice cream flavor, but almost on a conjectural basis. They say bananas were better and more flavorful in the sixties but they were all killed off and we eat a different variety today. Does Fatamorgana have a secret stash of this lost banana? Because I have waited my whole life for this banana. This is Ur-Banana, these are purified flavors. Nothing candy, nothing false, never too sweet or not sweet enough, it all tastes real, yet transformed by mystic alchemy into gelato, cold, smooth, creamy gelato.
The King is dead.
Long live the King.