I prepared myself to eat a lot of gelato in Italy. I didn’t know how it differed from ice cream, but I knew it was similar and that I liked it. A lot of the gelato here in Italy is pretty standard – the same flavors made from similar mixes and powders. While this gelato definitely hits the spot, finding and tasting gelato from an artisanal shop made by passionate creators is a completely different and more meaningful experience.
We ended our day in Pisa with a gelato tasting at De’ Coltelli, as arranged by Professor Borghini. He prepared us by explaining how much the owner and employees care about the gelato and that they are constantly experimenting with new flavors and textures. They use fresh ingredients from reliable farmers – something that makes more of a difference in the taste of the gelato than you would think. We tried flavors such as strawberry and sage, ricotta, and traditional chocolate. At De’ Coltelli, they make different kinds of gelato: cream, which is cream based and very similar to ice cream, and granite, which originates in Sicily. There is no cream in granite, so it is icy and works best with fruity flavors, almost like a sorbet. It was nice to try some granite flavors, but the cream was my favorite, since it reminded me of ice cream and home.
After trying some new flavors, I still wasn’t satisfied, probably because I like picking my own flavors and eating it from my own cone (clearly I’m bad at sharing). Whenever I get gelato, I always order hazelnut, but I figured that since I’m at a real gelato shop, I should branch out. I ended up choosing macadamia nut and ginger, both in the traditional cream form. The macadamia was nutty and sweet, but more mild than hazelnut, while the ginger was a little spicy. The two worked very well together to create my favorite gelato experience in Italy so far.
In class, we’ve talked a lot about art. One of our recent readings was by Elizabeth Telfer on food as an art form, and if food can even be considered art. She describes that food is only a minor art because it is short lasting and can’t convey emotion. In my opinion, the gelato I tasted at De’ Coltelli was absolutely emotional; the passion of the owner stood out in the taste of the gelato. The amount of care and pride he puts into his work is evident by just tasting how fresh the ingredients are and how perfectly they work with each other. Of course my gelato was eaten quickly (it was hot out and melting, and I couldn’t resist), so maybe it wasn’t able to be looked at and analyzed for an extended period of time, but the taste said it all. Whether De’ Coltelli’s gelato is considered art or not, I have a delicious memory of eating artisanal gelato in Italy, and that’s all that matters.