The Best Gelato, and Best-Kept Secret, in Rome

 I Caruso, best gelato in Rome, Italy

After more than a year of silence, I’m going to let you in on Rome’s best-kept gelato secret: Rome’s best gelato isn’t at Grom, at San Crispino, or even at Ciampini (although that’s still my favorite on-the-beaten-track gelateria, for when you just don’t have time to make a voyage out to, say, Vice).

Instead, Rome’s best gelateria is a little place in the centro storico’s business district, a short walk from Repubblica.

Its name? I Caruso.

(Update, Dec. 2013: Actually, not any more. I Caruso is still excellent. But just around the corner is what I think is the new best spot for gelato in Rome…).Rome's best gelato at I Caruso

If you haven’t heard of I Caruso, you’re not the only one. So far, it’s escaped notice even by Rome’s myriad foodies and gelato lovers, never mind guidebooks. In fact, it didn’t even make it onto any of the recent lists I’ve seen of Rome’s best gelato shops (including these otherwise-great round-ups by Tavole Romane, Katie Parla, and NileGuide).

That said, if I Caruso is a local secret, it’s one of the most popular local secrets I know. Every time I go, the place is crowded with Italians. Men in suits fresh from their work at one of the nearby banks, families, well-heeled women — they’re all here. And with reason. 

Locals at I Caruso in Rome, gelateria

About a year and a half old, I Caruso is truly artigianale; not only is everything made on-site with fresh ingredients, but you can watch them make the gelato through the glass. The panna, in either normal or zabaglione flavors, is the best I’ve had in Rome. It’s whipped fresh right there.

And the gelato itself? It’s out of this world. The extra-dark chocolate is the creamiest, richest I’ve ever had. Balanced off with a fragola that tastes like a just-picked strawberry, bursting-with-flavor melon, or with I Caruso’s famous  pistacchio, it’s the perfect cup. Other options, which change seasonally, include mandarin orange, almond, and fior di panna.

Meanwhile, the servers are friendly, the place is super-clean, and the prices (€2.50 for a small, €3 medium, €3.50 large) aren’t bad. You can also get gelato by the kilo here… a pricey option, but I can’t imagine a better way to be a hit at a party. (Below, where the magic happens).

Where artisanal gelato is made at I Caruso
Another bonus? The location. A 10-minute walk from the Repubblica metro stop, it’s much more convenient than many of the other artisanal gelaterias in Rome. I Caruso is also right around the corner from Piazza Sallustio, so if you don’t want to take advantage of one of the benches on the street, you can wander over and enjoy your gelato while checking out some great ancient ruins: the remnants of the villa built by the Roman historian Sallust in the first century B.C.

In fact, I’ll be honest: I Caruso is so good that, for a long time, I didn’t want to be the one to “out” this place. After all, as we all know, once an establishment in Rome gets popular, it starts to go downhill. Plus, my original source had begged me to keep the place a secret.

But out of devotion to my readers, and commitment to helping those on their honorable search for Rome’s top-quality gelato, I decided it was time.

So there you are. Rome’s best gelato. Just in time for summer.

Just please… don’t tell anyone. Okay?

I Caruso. Via Collina, 13-15. Click here for a map of I Caruso’s location.

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Rome’s Newest Artisanal Gelateria Opens… Right Near the Colosseum

Flor, Rome's newest gelateria

Sweet relief — in the form of homemade, artisanal gelato — has just come that much closer for those sightseeing in the Colosseum area. Right across from the entrance to the Roman forum, on Via Cavour, is "Flor," Rome's newest gelateria.

Flor just opened in the last month, and I've already taken (several) tastings. The good news: It's definitely good gelato. And it's made fresh on-site, always a absolute must huge plus. It's also a welcome addition to an area that previously, Sicilian pastry and ice cream shop Ciuri Ciuri aside, didn't have very many gelato options at all, never mind artisanal ones.

Gelato from Flor, Rome's newest gelateria near Colosseum

That said, it's not the best gelato I've ever tasted. Some of the flavors don't have as much "kick" as I'd like, particularly the fruity ones (is pear really that hard to turn into gelato? Because time after time, I find gelaterias failing to deliver on their pear flavors). But others are definitely worth trying. My two favorites: the variegato all'amarena, a mix of creamy vanilla and cherry, and the fondente, a super-rich dark chocolate.

Even if it's not Rome's best gelateria, Flor is still pretty darn good. Oh, and they have 3-euro milkshakes, too. You can bet I'm going back soon to try one.

Flor. Located at the bottom of Via Cavour, just above where it meets Via dei Fori Imperiali, on the left. I'll go back soon for the proper address, but if you head up Via Cavour from the Roman forum entrance, you can't miss it.

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Eat, Pray, Love and Il Gelato di San Crispino

Ginger-and-cinnamon and black fig gelato at San Crispino, Rome

A confession: I sort of feel the same way about San Crispino, one of Rome's most famous gelaterias, as I do about the book Eat, Pray, Love.

Eat, Pray, Love wrapped up a long-established idea (travel as a journey of self-discovery!) that's still a bit underaccepted by Americans (isn't traveling for a year hippy-dippy and selfish?) in an appealing package (easily-relatable 30-something woman finding her independence, and, in true Disney fashion, love!) that still seems just-off-the-beaten-path-enough to be original (would you quit your job to travel for a year? Well, maybe if you had the cash advance she did, but still….)

Similarly: Il Gelato di San Crispino takes the concept of using fresh, organic ingredients (not exactly a new culinary idea, at least here in Italy) that's still seen as a bit rare (given the number of gelaterias that don't do this) in an appealing package (I mean, it's gelato, and it's near two of Rome's biggest tourist sites).

And just as Eat, Pray, Love found wild success, so — it seems — has San Crispino. As well as franchising (there are now two of the stores), San Crispino's even gotten a movie cameo. In a movie about a woman traveling to Rome to find herself. What was the name of it? Oh, yeah. Eat, Pray, Love. Go figure.

Now, I like San Crispino. Maybe even more than I like Eat, Pray, Love. But I wouldn't call San Crispino the best gelateria in Rome. Its flavors, like the chapters of the book, can be a little uneven in their poignancy and effectiveness. (Okay, I'll stop now). I prefer the creamy texture of the gelato at Ciampini, just up the road. And San Crispino is a little pricier than other gelaterias, with the cheapest cup, for just one taste of one kind of gelato, coming in at €2.50.

That said: I still sometimes recommend the place. Why? First of all, when other gelaterias that "foodies" tend to tout are on Rome's outskirts (like Il Gelato di Claudio Torcè, out in E.U.R.), San Crispino is right in the center. It's convenient. And as corny as it is, you can't underestimate how watching the sunset light up the dome of the Pantheon while noshing seems to make your gelato taste that much better. (The only way, I'm guessing, that all of the restaurants on that piazza manage to stay in business).

Secondly, lots of other people, from La Pergola's Heinz Beck to Elizabeth Gilbert herself, are obsessed with San Crispino gelato. It's obviously a crowd-pleaser. And third, the fruit flavors do taste pretty darn fresh. I especially like their black fig, blackberry, and plum. The ginger-and-cinnamon is a favorite, too.

So: Go. Just please, leave the copy of Eat, Pray, Love in your hotel room to keep the gelateria from imploding by sweet-stuff overload.

Il Gelato di San Crispino. Via della Panetteria 42 (Trevi location) or Piazza della Maddalena (franchise at the Pantheon. For a map, click here.

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