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Best Gelato isn't Italian, and ice cream cone fables

This week's radio show spent a good bit of time on Italian gelato,
but I hate to break it to fans of Italy, but the best city in the whole world
for gelato is not there, because the best gelato city is Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Italian influences in Buenos Aires are every bit as pervasive as French and Spanish,
and those influences show up especially in their accents and in their favorite foods.
There are gourmet gelato shops on almost every corner in the nicer neighborhoods
and they are wedged into the real estate in the working class areas as well.
Competition for customers is heavy, but prices stay comparatively high, so only the
high quality and creative shops stay in business. People line up for hand-packed kilos
of freshly made flavors, just like they flock to pizza and BBQ/rotisserie establishments.

Also in this week's radio show, the legend is repeated about ice cream cones at the St. Louis world's fair
being born from necessity when the ice cream vendor ran out of cups and turned to the waffle stand instead.
Versions of that story have been told about many different fairs all over the world--it's part of the lore of fairs and exhibitions of the industrial age. A little research shows that the St. Louis event was in 1904, but ice cream cones specifically for ice cream -- not repurposed folded waffles -- were being mass manufactured already in the 1890s.
It was at the US centennial exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, 28 years earlier, where Breyers' had an exhibit in the industrial machinery hall of ice cream mass manufacturing, and many saloons and pop-up shops around the exhibition site were serving their own ice cream, that a crepe vendor and an ice cream stand teamed up to use rolled/folded crepes as cones to hold ice cream.
And that doesn't take into account what was going on in Europe -- so the notion that ice cream cones come from St. Louis in 1904 is pretty silly. They are documented much earlier and much farther east.

To balance out that tall tale, though, I was happy to hear from the Sicilian guide on Rick's show that as kids they would have gelato inside a brioche, like an ice cream sandwich, because one of the brothers behind the top-reviewed restaurant located in Girona, Catalunya, called El Cellar de Can Roca, has an ice cream shop over by the tourist main drag, and the shop serves a custom-made ice cream novelty where they put gelato in a type of panini bun and then warm it up in a sandwich press so the outside is toasty but the inside stays cold -- and they claim it is an original invention. This anecdote on the radio show, though, indicates that there is a precedent for pairing gelato with pastry.

Posted by
24001 posts

I saw gelato-with-brioche, if not gelato-in-brioche, being sold in Noto and Catania during my 2015 trip to Sicily.

Posted by
1974 posts

I agree that gelato in brioche is relatively easy to find, but I've never heard of it being heated!

Posted by
2242 posts

I see now that they've opened a handful of shops there in Iberia, and that they call their version of the gelato in brioche by the catalunyan name
(You have to click on the arrows to see the heating step of the process)

I recommend the apple pie flavor combination.

Posted by
15365 posts

Friends and I, all who have been in Italy multiple times, went to Black Dog Gelato in Chicago and all 3 of us agreed it was the best gelato ever.

But between you and me, the best gelato is whichever one is about to enter my mouth :-)

Posted by
7014 posts

If Italians make the best gelato in the world in Buenos Aires, isn't it still technically "Italian"? It's sort of a distinction without a difference when the same cultural components are inputs into the final product. Countries always want to carry the torch for "best...whatever", but frankly you can have outstanding ice cream all over the world, even places that are not known for it. I had fantastic gelato in Salt Lake City in a place run by Neapolitans, I couldn't tell you the difference between that gelato and anywhere in Italy. I've had some not so good ice cream (helado) in Buenos Aires, but one of the best pizzas ever. It had really flavorful, pungent roquefort cheese on it, which was unusual.