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How to Find the Best Gelato (And Spot the Fake Stuff) on Your Travels Through Rome

by Eugenia Lazaris

Sep 29, 2023

© Acesarek | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / Europe

Rome is a city full of musts for visitors. You must visit the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps. And the list goes on, all the way down to trying gelato. No trip to Rome would be complete without the obligatory sweet treat, and for good reason. Gelato is delicious, refreshing and it comes in every flavor you can imagine. But while you can find it just about everywhere you turn in the Eternal City, it’s important to know not all gelatos are created equal. The city is brimming with fakes, and once you know how to tell the difference, not only will you see the fake stuff everywhere, but you will also refuse to settle for less than authentic.


It seems the gelato shops are always popping with customers. But if you don’t know the real from the fake, you will easily find yourself wasting your money on subpar frozen treats when, with just a little bit of effort, you could be enjoying gelato the way it was intended.


Fake gelato looks light and airy with a cloud-like surface. Although it looks pretty and inviting, the fluffy surface gives away one of the secrets of fake gelato — it has been made with additives like emulsifiers or thickeners. Gelato is made with three simple ingredients: milk, heavy cream and sugar. Sometimes egg yolks are used as a stabilizer, and natural flavorings like chocolate, banana or pistachio are added to create different flavors. When additives are introduced, the added volume makes it look like you are getting more than you actually are.


The color of the gelato is a dead giveaway artificial flavorings have been used. Natural flavorings shouldn’t include any dyes or food colors, so the color should be muted and subtle. Keep in mind the inside of a banana is actually white, so banana-flavored gelato should actually be white like the color of the fruit used for flavoring. If it’s bright yellow, you can bet it contains artificial colorings and flavorings.


This leads to the flavor, another indicator of whether or not gelato is authentic. Natural flavorings are subtle and light, while artificial flavorings are strong and pronounced. If your coconut gelato tastes like it belongs in a bottle of tanning oil, there is a good chance you have been duped into buying the fake stuff.


While you can certainly eat any gelato you please, taking the time to find the real stuff will let you enjoy the feeling of pride that comes with conquering one of Rome’s classic tourist scams.


The many shops selling fake gelato await at every turn, but you’ll find plenty of places where you can trust you are getting the real stuff, like Fatamorgana, with locations throughout the city. It features seasonal menus and unique flavor ingredients, and remains committed to serving only the good stuff.


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