My name might suggest otherwise, but my family is Italian. (Middle name: Alberto.) But I'm also an American, born and raised in New Jersey. Like any good American, I've eaten a lot of ice cream in my life. But you know what? If I had my druthers, I'd leave it in the freezer every time.
Why, you ask? Simple: Gelato is superior to ice cream in just about every conceivable way. From taste to nutritional value, Italians really know what they're doing when it comes to frozen desserts.
Gelato is more flavorful.
If you've had the distinct pleasure of eating chocolate gelato back to back with chocolate ice cream, you probably noticed that the chocolate flavor comes through much more powerfully in gelato.
TheKitchn attributes this bolder taste to the fact that gelato has less fat than ice cream. This means the flavors aren't as diluted and smoothed out as those in the ice cream equivalent. It also means they don't linger as long on the tongue, giving gelato a cleaner finish.
You get more bang for your buck.
If you were to take equally sized scoops of gelato and ice cream and weigh them, you'd find that the gelato is heavier.
According to Serious Eats, this has to do with how ice cream and gelato are made. Both desserts are churned, which adds air to the mix and gives them their signature fluffy texture. But gelato is churned at a slower speed than ice cream, meaning there's less air in the finished product. This also means that the gelato is more dense.
In a weird way, that means you're getting more frozen, creamy goodness per bite when you choose gelato.
Gelato is easier to scoop.
This might seem a bit absurd, but it's completely true. Have you ever tried to scoop ice cream and either bent a spoon or inadvertently hurt yourself? Maybe you've had to pop a tub of ice cream in the microwave to soften it up. Ice cream can be hard stuff, and it's all due to temperature.
Ice cream is best served at about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, but dense gelato reaches its truest expression at slightly balmier temps. This warmer serving temperature means gelato is much easier to scoop. That's the story at a gelateria, anyway.
Some store-bought gelati (lookin' at you, Talenti) are also easier to scoop than ice cream, and seem to soften up faster as well. Why? We can't say for sure, but we suspect we can thank food scientists for trying to replicate the gelateria experience at home. Whatever the reason, our wrists appreciate it.
Gelato is healthier for you.
You might be skeptical. After all, how could something be healthier and taste better? But you're just going to have to trust us on this one.
SFGate reports that while ice cream has 14 to 17 percent milkfat, gelato contains just 3 to 8 percent. That's because ice cream uses lots of heavy cream, while gelato uses milk. Gelato also uses far fewer egg yolks than ice cream—in some cases none at all.
Analyze 3.5 ounces of the average vanilla ice cream, and you'll find that it contains 125 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 14 grams of sugar. Meanwhile, a similar portion of gelato packs in just 90 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 10 grams of sugar. It's a win-win!
You can get dairy-free gelato.
If you're lactose-intolerant, this is a biggie.
Dairy-free gelato is technically known as sorbetto (Italian for sorbet), and yes, most sorbettos are fruit-based. Most, but not all. In fact, you can find plenty of dairy-free chocolate gelatos, many of them deliciously dark. EatingWell even has a recipe so you can make the stuff yourself!
BONUS: Gelato e Italiano.
Granted, I'm just scraping the bottom of the tub here, but the best thing about gelato is that it's Italian!
Instead of going to an ice cream parlor, you get to go to a gelateria. Instead of asking for two scoops of ice cream, you can ask your server for due gelati. You can even try out exotic names like stracciatella or limoncello. Like espresso with your gelato? Try an affogato.
Ice cream can't top that.
Hero Image: Flickr user "derekskey" (CC BY 2.0)