That’s Italian!

Cold, creamy gelato has less fat than ice cream

Trying to distinguish Italian gelato from old-fashioned ice cream requires a sophisticated pallet. Gelato is made with milk, heavy cream, sugar and flavoring. Ditto for ice cream. So forget the blindfold test.

But gelato has a dramatically different appearance. In the display case at Caffe Gelato in Newark – believed to be the First State’s lone “gelato joint” – the stuff resembles cake icing. And the texture is considerably smoother than the cup of strawberry ice cream we sample at the Ben & Jerry’s in the University of Delaware’s Trabant Center.

This is precisely the idea.

“When you go to Penn State ice cream school, they say if it doesn’t have 24 to 26 percent butterfat, it’s not good and it’s not ice cream,” explains Ryan German, who opened the fashionable restaurant last year at 90 East Main Street. “So gelato, by American definition, is not ice cream. And it’s not low-fat ice cream.”

Still, it tastes pretty darn good regardless what those Creamheads in State College, Pa., have to say. German, 23, isn’t surprised. After all, he visited Italy several times to study the nuances of this European favorite before plunking down $26,000 for two authentic gelato machines.

“We use a recipe that they’ve used in Italy for 300 years,” says German, who earned a business degree from the University of Delaware last spring. “Our gelato has between 7 and 10 percent butterfat total. Our fruit flavors have less than 2 percent butterfat because there’s no milk in them. We use a pound-and-a-half of real fruit [per gallon], water and sugar.”

Typically, the cafe features 24 flavors, a half-dozen of which change on a daily basis. The most popular flavors are boccio (chocolate hazelnut), stracciatella (Italian chocolate chip), mint chocolate chip and tiramisu (rum extract with a little espresso). But on occasion, the cafe features American standards such as chocolate brownie, peanut butter or cookies and cream. Apricot gelato could turn up on the menu during apricot season.

“The possibilities are endless,” German says. “We just play around with the gelato. We make whatever we want to make.”

Caffe Gelato features 15 entrees and a variety of wine and beer.

Originally published April 2001, in Out and About Magazine.
Reprinted by permission