And no, they’re not the same.
Gelato isn’t just an Italian word for ice-cream; instead think of them like cousins, because they have similar heritage, but there’s a few key differences that make the very different, and for me gelato wins every time.
First up, gelato has been around a lot longer than ice-cream, with a long history in Italy dating back over a thousand years. It started in Rome with servants sent up into the mountains to bring down ice. What was left by the time they arrived back in Rome was crushed and covered with honey.
But it really took off thanks to a banquet in1600 for the famous (and infamous) Medici family of Florence, where Renaissance man and general over-achiever Bernardo Buontalenti spent four months creating the banquet including inventing a new dessert - gelato. The flavour ‘buontalenti’ can still be found in gelato stores in Florence.
And then there's the ingredients and the way they are made. Gelato is:
1. Made with more milk and less cream, which makes it lighter to eat and why you’ll find ice-cream a heavier, creamier experience.
2. Churned at a lower speed which means gelato is a denser product. In fact, it has up to 50% less air than ice-cream; think of air like cheap filler to take up space. Less air also means gelato has a more intense flavour - so you’ll get more bang for your frozen dessert buck - gelato is both dense and intense.
3. Served at a higher temperature, minus 13 degrees celsius, which means you get a silkier, smoother texture than ice-cream and the main flavours get to shine through. But this does come with a down side, it does mean that gelato melts quicker than ice-cream.
As far as flavour goes, there are many traditional Italian flavours such as stracciatella or pistachio that are classics, however it is said that the true test of an Italian gelato shop is their fior di latte (flower of the milk); when made well, this simple flavour will outshine everything else.
But on a hot summer day, the reality is both taste amazing!