Meet ice cream’s Italian cousin in Chicago
Thursday, May 08, 2008
You may think that ice cream is the perfect ending to a fun-filled, blistering hot summer day, but have you tried gelato? No need to travel to Italy to enjoy ice cream’s rich and creamy Italian cousin—homemade gelato can be found right here in Chicago. Here is what you need to know before you go (and trust me, you should go).
Although ice cream and gelato have similar ingredients, they differ in texture and taste. Premium ice creams contain cream, eggs and flavorings. Gelato has more egg yolks and less cream. Gelato actually has less fat than ice cream, but the texture is dense and creamy because no air is added. Traditionally served at a slightly warmer temperature, your scoop of gelato won’t melt as quickly as ice cream. Gelaterias also serve dairy-free, fruit-based sorbetto.
Here are a few local spots where you and your family can get your gelato fix:
Caffe Gelato at 2034 W. Division St. in Wicker Park is a true Italian-style gelateria. From the imported gelato case to the traditional décor, Caffe Gelato delivers an authentic experience. This gelateria serves up to 18 different flavors each day, all made on the premises. Try the always-popular stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate chips) or experiment with a more refreshing flavor like blood orange.
Nearby, Piccolo (located at 824 N. Damen Ave.) offers a more modern take on gelato with flavors such as chai and cherry chocolate chip alongside traditional favorites like vanilla. The gelato is made in small batches by the pastry chef who likes to experiment with different flavor combinations. Enjoy your scoop in the minimalist café space or grab a seat at one of the outdoor tables.
Another family-friendly option is Massa Italian Café and Gelateria, which has three Chicago-area locations (7434 W. North Ave. in Elmwood Park, Navy Pier and UIC Village). Massa offers up 24 rotating gelato flavors each day from a repertoire of more than 70 different combinations. All gelato is made fresh in-house from imported Italian flavor bases and equipment. Regulars swear by the nocciola (hazelnut).
If one scoop of gelato isn’t indulgent enough for you, try Massa’s "spaghetti and meatballs"—vanilla gelato put through a spaghetti press, served with a strawberry "tomato sauce," shaved coconut "cheese" and two chocolate gelato "meatballs."