When in Rome do like the senators do – eat gelato

In a country where two senators took the time to write to officials at the upper house of parliament asking for ice cream in the canteen, "gelato" is a serious business.

by: Reuters: Emma Heald | 27 Jul 2007

The senators' argument was that the canteen should be able to satisfy "the needs of people's normal daily life".

The warm Rome weather and slower lifestyle certainly lend themselves well to an ice cream culture. Many ice cream sellers stay open until after midnight and it is perfectly normal to see a businessman walking down the street with a cone in his hand.

Italian gelato has a more intense taste and denser texture than ice cream in other parts of the world, and miraculously is also generally lower in calories and fat than its American counterpart. What makes it so good?

As Nazzareno Giolitti pointed out: "The way of eating ice cream is different here – you eat it on the street, you don't bring it home." This means that no preservatives are needed and you can use the freshest ingredients.

Giolitti is one of the current owners of Giolitti, a traditional and extremely popular gelateria which has been at its present site near parliament since 1930. He was brought up in the family ice cream business.

The Giolitti kitchen, filled with the smell of ripe cantaloupe melons being peeled and sliced, still contains the same machines used by Giolitti's grandfather.

San Crispino
The history of San Crispino, another worthy contender for the title of best gelato maker in Rome, is much shorter. Pasquale Alongi and his brother opened their first store just 15 years ago.

Alongi explained: "We were not an ice cream family. We made ice cream at home and decided that we liked ours more than others so we tried to improve it. We studied how to make it, how to become professionals. After two years we were ready."

San Crispino has introduced less traditional flavours into the market. Their signature flavour, 'Il gelato di San Crispino' is flavoured with honey from a nature reserve in Sardinia.

Giolitti and Alongi both insist that there is no secret to making good ice cream, but that the key to success lies in what goes in. "Our 'secret' is the choice of natural ingredients," said Giolitti. Alongi said his priority was "top quality ingredients, with no cost-cutting".

Freshness is also crucial, both receive ingredients and produce ice cream daily.

Both ice cream producers are also trying to spread their brand's fame outside Rome. Giolitti has opened outlets in South Korea, Denmark, and Connecticut, USA. San Crispino has no branches abroad but recently opened one in Rome airport.

The senators' request for ice cream, derided in the Italian press for showing the lawmakers' lavish tastes, was turned down. They will have to continue to venture down the street for their ice cream fix.

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