How to Spot Good Gelato from 15 Feet Away | Ex Urbe
#1) Look at the color of the fruit flavors. Banana, apple/pear, or berry flavors (frutti di bosco) are the easiest tell. If the fruit gelati are made of pure, real fruit then they will be the color that fruit would be if you crushed it: berry flavors a deep dark off-black purple/red, apple white or brownish or yellowish sometimes with flecks of peel, and banana a rather unappealing shade of gray. If, on the other hand, banana is a cheery yellow, apple a perky spring green and berry flavors are the light-ish color of blueberry yogurt, then the gelato before you is a mix of milk with food coloring plus fruit extracts or artificial fruit flavor. Pistachio similarly should be the color of crushed nuts, not bright green. The artificial fruit gelati can still be delicious, but only pure fruit sorbetti will give you the overwhelming flavor of top quality fruit gelato which tastes more like fruit than the fruit does, hyperconcentrating the fruit’s flavors and bringing them out with sugar. This matters even if fruit isn’t your thing: making the gelato out of pure fruit is more laborious and expensive than using flavor extracts, so a gelateria with a brilliant dark frutti di bosco is one that is definitely trying to produce the best, and thus also likely to produce a superior chocolate, crema, etc. Now, sometimes mixes of fruit with dairy can be good, so a blueberry-yogurt-colored frutti di bosco isn’t always a bad thing, but the pure fruit ones are more difficult and more expensive, so they are always a good sign, even if the opposite is not necessarily a bad sign. Looking for fruit colors is generally my first test, and if a place passes that’s often enough to say “Yes!” without worrying about other elements of the test. #2) Is the gelato mounded up in huge tall piles? Gelato is soft and fluid, and over time it will naturally flow down, like pudding. The only way to get it to stably stay in a big tall mound is either to freeze it solid (no longer yummy), or to add chemicals that help it remain solid (which can usually be tasted since there is no salt and little fat to conceal them). Thus big, tall, enticing mounds of gelato can be a warning sign. The best gelato will usually not stick above the rim of the bin, unless it has just been brought out. Many very good gelato places don’t even have an open bin, but keep the gelato in round metal containers with lids deep inside the counter. This means you can’t see the color of the gelato, but is generally a good sign, since anywhere that doesn’t show off the visuals of its gelato is usually good enough that it knows it doesn’t have to, and cares more about protecting the gelato than about showing it off. You do need to watch out, though, since some places that serve cheap gelato delivered by vans from warehouses receive it in flat bins with plastic wrap over the top, which is then unwrapped and served. So while tall mounts of gelato are a bad sign, flat bins aren’t a guarantee of quality. Metal lids pretty much always mean good quality. . . .