How to Become a Gelato Snob

One thing that Luci and I never fight over is our love of really good Gelato.  I always feel a little unprepared when I we visit the upscale gelato establishments…so we have done some research on the finer points of the decadent nector!  Thanks in advance to our friends at Why Go Italy for the help.


First question:  What is gelato?  And How is it different than Ice cream?  Find out here (World of Ice Cream)


“Cioccolato” (chok-oh-LAH-toh) is basic chocolate, but the variations on this theme are nearly infinite. It’s all the rage to pair chocolate with other complimentary flavors, like hot pepper or orange, and there are also different kinds of chocolate even when it’s all by itself. Here are a few to look for:

  • cioccolato fondente (cho-koh-LAH-toh fawn-DEN-teh) – Dark chocolate lovers, this is the label to look for. And if you see cioccolato fondente extra noir, I think you’ll understand that we’re talking about the darkest of the dark chocolates here. Dark chocolate haters (what’s wrong with you?!?), look for cioccolato al latte (cho-koh-LAH-toh ahl LAH-tay), or milk chocolate.
  • bacio (BAH-cho) – Named for the famous chocolate candies that come from Perugia, this is a chocolate hazelnut combination not unlike Nutella (which is another common gelato flavor), often with bits of hazelnuts in the mix.
  • gianduja or gianduia (jahn-DOO-yah) – Either way it’s spelled, it means the same thing – a creamy combination of milk chocolate and hazelnut. This flavor comes primarily from the Piedmont region, but it can be found throughout Italy.
  • cioccolato all’arancia (cho-koh-LAH-toh ahl-ah-RAHN-cha) – This is chocolate orange. It’s most often a dark chocolate, not a milk chocolate, and may have either just an orange flavor or may also include candied bits of orange peel.
  • cioccolato con peperoncini (cho-koh-LAH-toh kohn pep-pehr-ohn-CHEE-nee) – Another trendy chocolate addition, besides orange, is pepper – and this is often how you’ll see it on the flavor placards. It’s basically a hot pepper infused chocolate (usually dark chocolate), and can vary in terms of heat.

The Nuts

Nuts are a popular ingredient in many of the chocolate and cream flavors, but they’re also stand-alone flavors as well.

  • pistacchio (pee-STAHK-yoh) – A classic flavor!
  • mandorla (mahn-DOOR-lah) – Almond
  • nocciola (noh-CHO-lah) – This is hazelnut all by itself (not combined with chocolate, as listed above).
  • castagna (kahs-TAHN-yah) – This is chestnut, and isn’t nearly as common as some of the other nut flavors.

The Creams

  • fior di latte (FYOR dee LAH-tay) – Perhaps the base flavor for all cream (or even chocolate) flavors, this is literally “flower of milk” and it’s a wonderfully subtle sweet cream flavor.
  • crema (KREH-mah) – This is a kind of egg custard flavor, and shouldn’t be confused with vanilla.
  • zabaione (zah-bah-YOH-nay) – This is based on a dessert of the same name, made from (among other things) egg yolks and sweet Marsala wine. So it’s an eggy and custardy flavor, with an overtone of Marsala.
  • cocco (KOH-koh) – Coconut
  • caffè (kah-FAY) – Just in case you aren’t getting enough coffee flavor in your daily morning espresso, here’s the gelato version.

The Fruits

Technically, these aren’t really considered gelati – instead, they’re sorbetti (sorbetto in the singular) because they’re made without milk. The fruit flavors are some of my favorites – they’re so intense, you’ll be amazed at how like the real thing they taste.

  • fragola (FRAH-go-lah) – Strawberry (and here’s the easiest strawberry gelato recipe ever!)
  • lampone (lahm-POH-nay) – Raspberry (oh-so good with a dark chocolate flavor)
  • limone (lee-MOH-nay) – Lemon (lime is really rare, but it’s lime, or LEE-may)
  • mandarino (mahn-dah-REE-noh) – Mandarin orange
  • melone (meh-LOH-nay) – Melon (usually cantaloupe)
  • albicocca (al-bee-KOH-kah) – Apricot (sounds yucky…anyone tried it??)
  • fico (FEE-koh) – Fig
  • frutti di bosco (FROO-tee dee BOHS-koh) – These aren’t fruits belonging to some guy named Bosco, this means “fruits of the forest,” generally things like blueberries and blackberries.
  • mela (MEH-lah) – Apple (also look for mela verde (MEH-lah VEHR-day), or green apple)
  • pera (PEH-rah) – This is pear, and one of my favorite fruit flavors. It’s a really subtle flavor, but one of the best features of well-made pear gelato is the texture. You really feel like you’re eating a pear.
  • pesca (PEHS-kah) – Peach

The Wildcards

You’ll find regional and seasonal gelato specialties wherever you go, and some that are based on popular Italian candy bars or other desserts. There are so many to odd creations and tastes…here are a few interesting ones:

  • zuppa inglese (TSOO-pah een-GLAY-zay) – Literally this is “English soup,” but it’s referring to that popular English dessert called “trifle.” It’s a custardy flavored base with bits of cookies (instead of sponge cake) and often a sweet wine like madeira or sherry.
  • riso (REE-zoh) – This is literally rice, but is more akin to the gelato version of rice pudding. And yes, there are bits of rice in it.
  • malaga (mah-LAH-gah) – Rum raisin
  • stracciatella (strah-cha-TEL-lah) – If you think of this kind of like the Italian gelato equivalent of chocolate chip ice cream, you’re in the ballpark. It’s a fior di latte base with chocolate bits in it. The chocolate has usually been drizzled over the top of the just-made gelato and then mixed in after it’s hardened.  This is a very common flavor.
  • liquirizia (lee-kwee-REE-tzee-ah) – You may have been able to guess this one (it’s licorice), but the pronunciation can be a bit tricky if you’re caught unawares. .
  • cannella (kah-NEL-lah) – This is cinnamon, and although it’s not that common it’s really a delight. It’s not like a super-hot cinnamon, but just a nice representation of the spice. Consider pairing this with fruit flavors like pear or apple, or with chocolate.

Ok…did we miss any?  What is your fav?  Just leave a comment below.

So how do your order Gelato?  Here is a great how to video:

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14 Responses to How to Become a Gelato Snob

  1. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy March 24, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    Interesting… I’m in ice cream freak but haven’t really gotten into gelato yet. I love coconut so that would be my choice.

  2. Suzy April 1, 2011 at 9:10 am #

    When I lived in Italy, I’m pretty sure I had gelato at least twice a day. It can be really addictive to try all of the flavors. Have you ever tried some of the weird flavors like rose? That is one that your nose and taste buds can’t quite figure out at the same time.

  3. Laurel April 7, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    I enjoy gelato, but living in Europe, I miss good old fashioned churned ice cream that you get in North America. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of chocolate gelato.

  4. Emily April 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    Oh gelato, how I love thee! It really doesn’t get better than a cup of gelato on a hot Italian night. While I did love the plain chocolate flavor, I LOVED stracciatella. I have found some good gelato in Austin, but man, nothing beats the gelato I had in Perugia and Florence. I enjoyed seeing the definition of all of these terms, as I definitely didn’t know what some of those meant!

  5. Sailor April 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

    I enjoy Gelato…specially when I am served not when I serve.

  6. Kim April 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    AH! I love gelato. This post makes my mouth water. Pistachio is my favorite. Although a good Mascarpone or Stracciatella are high on my list too. It is super hard not to have it twice a day in Italy. We found some really great stuff in Vienna too. Yum!

  7. admin April 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Kim-so true…some of the best gelato is found outside Italy. Thanks for the comment.

    Happy Travels,


  8. Charu May 25, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    I loved the gelato I got next to the Trevi Fountain in Rome…there’s an iconic shop there…favorite is Nocciola, of course! Very informative posts, and glad you didn’t fight about it.

  9. Erica August 4, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    Oh god… chocolate orange?! YUM!

  10. A Nerd At Large March 20, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    Excellent post! Very useful information. Definitely making a note of some flavours to try. I would probably get one of the hazelnut ones at my first opportunity.

  11. Milena Yordanova June 18, 2015 at 6:17 am #

    I am addicted to Gelato. :) My favourite flavour is gianduia. Although the Gelato I tried in Italy was amazing, the best I have ever had was in Vienna.


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