If we say “Italian ice cream,” do you think gelato?

Chances are good that you do—or maybe even that you think of Italian ices (those commercially available tubes of frozen fruit juice). Italian ice cream, or gelato, is definitely not the same as the ice cream most Americans know and love. But how is it different?

Ice cream tends to be fluffier and fattier than gelato, which has a dense, creamy texture. Although it has a higher fat content, ice cream is not as heavy on the tongue as gelato. Gelato should be served warmer than ice cream—so not directly out of the freezer, and not kept at such low temperatures as ice cream. This means that gelato is even easier to scoop and serve than ice cream, and it’s not going to crumble as a spoon moves through it.

Where ice cream tends to melt fast if you don’t pay attention, gelato takes longer to melt because of its already-warmer storage and serving temperatures. This is also because there is more air in ice cream when it is being churned and less air in gelato. The reason there is more air in American-style ice cream is the speed of churning. Mixing ice cream at a faster speed allows more air to enter the batter; turning it at a slower speed lets less air touch the batter, giving you gelato’s density as the end-result.

Ice cream as we know it is usually made with egg yolks, milk, cream, and sugar. If it is an eggless variety, then the base ingredients are going to be only milk, cream, and sugar. Gelato is made with a custard base. This means it still contains milk, cream, sugar, and eggs, but that the proportion of ingredients is different than in American-style ice cream. There is more milk than cream and eggs in gelato—and sometimes there are no eggs at all. Compared to American ice cream made without eggs, gelato will still contain a higher ratio of milk to other ingredients.

While this depends on where you get it from, gelato tends to be served with more oomph than ice cream. This is not to take away from the glory of a well-decorated sundae or a banana split, but rather to acknowledge what countless travelers to Europe already know and love. When it is in a case at a gelato shop, or gelateria, the gelato is often packed neatly into square tubs and garnished with fruits, toppings, and artful swirls. Ice cream is often found in round tubs that have been scooped out of with little fanfare.

Of course, gelato can still look a mess and you can still serve ice cream beautifully—it just has to be brought to the correct temperature for smooth scooping and then kept there so it doesn’t melt right away. This is why many ice cream aficionados use warm water to help the scoop cut through ice cream in the way a spoon cuts through gelato at any temperature. Serving style aside, ice cream shops are much less common in the US than they once were, whereas gelaterias are everywhere in Italy and throughout much of Europe. Perhaps this is because Americans prefer the convenience of a pint and a spoon on the couch, or because we have forgotten how special it can be to go out for a dish of ice cream.

In keeping with the Italian tradition that created our Neapolitan pizza, we serve gelato here at Vero Amore. Come in and find out what flavors we’re serving up—they’re always different.