This survey is unscientific, not at all comprehensive, and will doubtless annoy many with a favourite gelateria sotto casa. Although true aficionados those who succumb to the urge for a cono even in the middle of a cold February morning may find nothing new in this distillation of more than 30 years of eating ice cream, morning, noon and night, winter and summer, those new to the city may find it useful. An attempt is made to be objective; however, it must be accepted that, although purists cannot approve of such combinations as, say, melon interlaced with Nutella, children and indeed some adults have a weakness for such confections. Therefore, some establishments are listed here not because they are personal favourites, but in order to provide a wide selection.
Unfortunately it is not possible to produce good home-made ice cream at commercial prices. The sad truth is that the better and more expensive the ingredients, the better the ice cream. Once youve tasted a good home-made product created with cream or egg and milk custard, with fruit or genuine flavours, youre unlikely to be satisfied by a commercial alternative ever again.
The same is not true of the water ice, granita (sloppy and icy), or sorbetto (slightly smoother, harder, with the addition of whipped egg white), as the principal ingredients, water and sugar, are cheap. However, the skill required to get the proportions exactly right and create something that is neither too sweet, nor too sloppy nor too hard is considerable.
The places on the list below have been judged according to their fruity and creamy-based ice creams, although in practice there is much overlap between the two. Prices shown indicate the range of sizes from the smallest to the largest cone / cup available. For the smallest size you can usually choose two or three different flavours, depending on the gelateria. The largest can take up to six or seven flavours, though of course some shops offer giant 9 and 10 cones which pack in up to ten flavours. The list is in alphabetical order, with the authors favourite at the end:
Checco er Carrettiere, Via Benedetta 7 (Ponte Sisto). 1.30-3.30. 20 flavours. Open 09.30-01.30 every day. Fruity very good (flavours change with the season), and creamy superb (particularly nocciola, pistacchio and zabaione), but portions are moderately sized.
Fassi Palazzo del Freddo, Via Principe Eugenio 65/67 (Piazza Vittorio). 1.40-2.70. 30 flavours. Open 12.00-01.30 (Mon closed). Dating back to the 1880s, this is probably the oldest gelateria still running in Rome. Fruity and creamy equally good. The portions are very generous indeed. There is a free drinking fountain inside, free seating inside and out and very friendly staff, but the place can get extremely crowded (a good sign).
Fiocco di Neve, Via del Pantheon 51. 1.50-4. 28 flavours. Open 10.00-24.00 every day. Famous for its incredibly rich zabaione, but also strong on other creamy flavours. Fruity inclined to insipidity, although mela alla canella (yoghurt-based apple with cinnamon flavour) is strongly recommended. There are two benches which you can sit on for no extra cost. A downside is that the staff is indifferent and tourists quickly fill up the small shop.
Giolitti, Via degli Uffici del Vicario 41. 2-9. 52 flavours. Open 10.00-01.00 (Sat and Sun until 02.00). High standards both for fruity and creamy, but not sublime. The portions are very generous and most of the staff are charming, chatty and helpful. There is not too much colouring used in the ice cream for example the banana is reassuringly grey, rather than bright yellow. There is table service, albeit rather expensive.
La Palma, Via della Maddalena 20/23. 2-10. 120 flavours. Open 08.00-01.00 every day. A bewildering, possibly excessive choice, including all sorts of horrors / pleasures, such as flavour combinations laced with Nutella. Heaps of ice cream give the impression of a supermarket. Good flavour but portions are smaller than at Giolitti, although larger than at Fiocco di Neve, which are both in the same neighbourhood.
Pellacchia, Via Cola di Rienzo 105. 1.30-3.50. 25 flavours. Open 06.00-01.30 (Mon closed). Fruity and creamy both excellent, without being superlative. This bar is popular with local residents and serves good-sized portions.
u Ping Pong, Piazzale della Radio 5. 1.50-3.50. 78 flavours. Open 11.00-01.00 (Tues closed). Creamy perhaps a little too soft, but fruity excellent, particularly banana and superb pineapple. This gelateria is useful after a hard days shopping in nearby Viale Marconi.
S. Crispino, Via della Panetteria 42 (Trevi Fountain), also Via Acaia 56 (S. Giovanni) and Via Bevagna 90 (Fleming). 1.90-7. 32 flavours. Open 12.00-00.30. Fruity and creamy all excellent with some rarities (ginger, grapefruit) and very friendly staff. A negative aspect is that there are no cones and the portions are very modest. The place also feels a bit like a boutique.
Tazza dOro, Via degli Orfani 84 (Pantheon). 1.50 (coffee granita), 2 (lemon granita). Open 07.00-20.00 (Sun closed). This bar only sells granita with the classic coffee flavour being uniquely delicious. Recently introduced lemon granita is certainly refreshing, but no rival to the coffee. A downside is that the bar gets very busy and the staff can be offhand to the point of being rude.
And the authors favourite is.
Pica, Via della Seggiola 12 (Via Arenula area). 1.30-3.10. 35 flavours. Open 08.30-02.00 (Sun, 16.30-02.00). Famous for its riso alla canella (rice and cinnamon flavour), which is extraordinarily good, Pica also excels over the whole range of fruity and creamy. The following are quite exceptional: pistacchio, pastiera napoletana (with orange flower water), lemon, various combinations with wild strawberries (with and without rice, or soya based), the wonderful rose flavour (unfortunately not always available), honey and bitter orange, cassata siciliana and more. Portions are generous, particularly the 1.30 size, which seems hardly smaller than the 1.60. A big advantage is the seating inside or outside underneath the shady canopy at no extra cost. The owner, Alberto Pica, is also president of the artisan ice-cream makers of Rome.
With thanks for the discerning and enthusiastic cooperation of Denise Ko and Joanna Braman.