Rome is Caput Mundi, then Gelateria al Teatro is the Center of the Gelato World. A small gelateria, on a narrow side-street behind Piazza Navona, Gelateria al Teatro has been my favorite gelateria since June 2006. Conveniently during the same week that I gave up an all-expense paid two-week trip to Formentera, Gelateria al Teatro opened up around the corner from my house. After two weeks of daily and twice daily visit, I predicted that not only were Silvia and Stefano’s delicious and creative flavors perfect, Gelateria al Teatro would turn Rome’s traditional gelato heavy weights Giolitti, Ciampini, San Crispino, Old Bridge, Fata Morgana, Tony et al, upside down
Though I’m no gelato Cassandra, four years later Gelateria al Teatro is Rome’s best and most talked gelateria. Gelateria al Teatro has Rome’s most delicious selection of gelato. Limiting itself to only18 gelato flavors, the gelato display is a testament to tradition and creativity. Essentials like Cioccolato (chocolate), pistachio, nocciola (hazelnut), crema, café, banana, yoghurt (plain Greek yogurt) hold rank with to the not-so-common pear/carmel, apple cinnamon, uva fragola (strawberryf grapes), maracuya (passion fruit), Antica Roma and Cassatina Siciliana, (fanciful pastry delights in gelato form).
Owners Stefano and Silvia are the geniuses and genie behind the gelato artistry. On any given day, Stefano arrives via bike at the gelateria with bountiful bags of fresh fruit from their neighborhood market to share with Silvia whose passion for sweets has created inventions like their latest salvia e lamponi (sage and raspberry), cioccolato al nero d’avola (dark chocolate with a hint of Nero d’Avola wine) and my one-time favorite Sesame. Gelateria al Teatro uses only seasonal fruit so gusti (flavors) like arance siciliane (Sicilian orange), pesca bianco (white peach) and fichi d’india (prickled pear) have fleeting appearances in the gelateria. Ingredients are fresh, natural and faithful to Italy, leading me to assume that gelato makers are subtle forerunners in the latest Kilometro Zero (local food) movement. Pistachio is made only with pistachio from Bronte, an island off of Sicily, Limoni di Amalfi made from lemons grown on the Amalfi coast, et cetera.
I think you get my point. Stefano and Silvia are just as dedicated to gelato quality as New York parents are to getting their children into Ivy League schools. They are fierce and proud, and thus they share their dedication by exposing their laboratory to showcase a behind-the-scenes of gelato making. Don’t expect strong-armed and aproned men and women, instead you’ll find an ultra-modern kitchen and the Compacta 3003 RTX- 21st century equivalent of milk churner, reducing time, controlling temperature exactly and eliminating any arm aching.
Tip to Tasters: salvia e lamponi and zenzero (ginger) as excellent palate cleansers between gusti, while the real meal is the inimitable cioccolato puro, pure dark chocolate of a perfection so divine that I refuse to have chocolate any where else. Not particularly interested in gelato? Home made hot chocolate and bonbons are served in winter months, while granite, crushed, iced flavors from the traditional granita di caffe (espresso coffee) to cocomoro (watermelon) and prugna (plum), cool you down in the spring and summer. Dietary limitations? Gelateria al Teatro offers gluten-free cones and a selection of non-dairy flavors.
Here’s a dare to all visiting Rome and Florence during May 28 to 31st. Spend a few hours learning the flavors and gelato artistry at Florence’s Gelato Festival, and then visit Rome’s Gelateria al Teatro to confirm that I am right. Caput Mundi Gelatorum.
Gelateria al Teatro
via San Simeone (Piazza Navona)
The Inside Scoop on Rome’s Gelato, Budget Travel
“Rome’s Gelato, Heaven in a Cup“, Susan Spano, Los Angeles Times
“18 Flavors of Gelato, and Then Some”, Leanne Kilroy, New York Times