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Gelato in Venice

An introduction to Italian ice cream, with a guide to Venetian gelaterie.

Gelato, the Italian ice cream, is one of the best food bargains in Venice. For €2 or less, you can buy a cone or cup of tasty gelato made with milk, sugar, and flavorings that range from fresh fruit to coffee, hazelnuts, or tiramisú.

If the thought of clogging your arteries with cholesterol makes you feel guilty, take heart: Gelato typically has less than half the butterfat content of Anglo-Saxon ice cream, so you can eat twice as much before your blood vessels are blocked. [Disclaimer: The previous statement is literary hyperbole, not legitimate medical advice.]

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ABOVE: An American visitor enjoys limone gelato from Il Doge on the Campo Santa Margherita.

Gelaterie are scattered throughout the city, so you're never far from an inexpensive ice-cream fix. Like the product they sell, gelato vendors come in several flavors: 

  • Take-out windows or shops, which serve impulse buyers and hungry pedestrians.

  • Gelato freezer cases in bars and cafés.

  • Sit-down cafés where you can order gelato, sundaes, and other concoctions by the bowl or glass.

Gelateria Il DogeThe best gelato comes from artigianale or artisanal producers who make fresh gelato every day on the premises, but there's no need to be obsessive about labels: Any gelato is better than none, and if you want something even better, you can always try the next gelateria and the one after that.

Tips for buying gelato:

  • photoWhen ordering from a take-out counter, ask for a cono (cone) or coppa (cup) and indicate the flavors or number of scoops that you want. (Pointing is acceptable, or see Pauline Kenny's "All About Gelato" for a gelateria vocabulary list.)

  • Don't order more than two scoops in a cone (especially in warm weather), because gelato melts more quickly than butterfat-rich American or British ice cream does.

  • In a café that has table service, don't buy from the take-out counter or bar and then sit down at a table. (That's true whether you're buying gelato, a sandwich, or anything else.)

For illustrated mini-reviews of famous or favorite gelato shops, see page 2 of this article.

Next page: Mini-reviews of gelaterie


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