Best Gelato of Milan and Emilia-Romagna, 2017 Edition
I got my first taste of the inimitable texture and pure flavor of fresh gelato in my trip to Rome almost a decade ago, but it wasn't until I visited Florence and Bologna a few years ago when I became truly obsessed with gelato, even taking a gelato-making class.
Now, every time I come to Italy, I make an effort to try as much gelato as possible. Every store is different, and the pistachio in one gelateria will be different from the pistachio in the next. Besides, as I learned in my class, gelato uses more milk than cream, so it's almost healthy! ;) (It's also why the flavors shine through so clearly compared to ice cream - there isn't so much fat that gets in the way.)
This trip to Milan, with a weekend in Emilia-Romagna was no different: I'm proud to say that I averaged 1.67 gelatos per day over the course of my 9-day trip. Here's a rundown of the highlights:
The Reigning Champion: Galliera 49, Bologna (Via Galliera, 49/b, 40121 Bologna)
My very most favorite gelateria from my Florence/Bologna trip was once again my very most favorite! I scheduled a 30-minute stopover in Bologna just to jump into town for a return visit. Now, when I visited Bologna last time, it was in August, when a lot of Italy shuts down and school is out. There were never more than a few people in front of me when ordering. Upon coming to the store - on this warm April Sunday afternoon - and seeing this long line, I started sweating about missing my flight!
But it was SO worth it! The big hit was the pistachio sorbetto: what they did with just pistachios, water, and barely any sugar (it was almost savory) was just magical.
Avante-Garde Revelation: Gelateria Bloom (Via Luigi Carlo Farini, 23, 41121 Modena)
I came across this gelato place just strolling around the streets of Modena - no reviews or blog posts brought me here. That's the great thing about gelato - the cost of failure is pretty low, so if it looks good, just give it a try! Bloom has some really innovative flavors along with the traditional ones like Nocciola and Pistacchio. Here's their flavor board when I visited.
I thought I should try the more interesting flavors: "Chazuke," matcha with rice gelato, "risi e bisi"... sticky rice and peas(!!!), and "bicerin" - zabaione gelato infused with coffee and cocoa sauce.
The rice and peas was nice in a mochi kind of way, but I wasn't really expecting actual green peas! Frozen, they had a bit of a strange texture. BUT, the chazuke was a true discovery. I've had matcha ice cream, matcha cake, matcha latte in so many places, but this brilliant combination - inspired by the Japanese dish of pouring green tea over rice - ruined me for any other green tea dessert.
New Favorite in Milan: Out of the Box (Via Marcello Malpighi, 7, 20129 Milano, near Porta Venezia)
Another place I "discovered" by chance, Out of the Box was a gelateria just down the street from my Airbnb. It has a cool, golden interior.
Here, I tried the pistacchio, "Emma" flavor (ricotta, egg, caramelized fig), stracciatella, nocciola, crema bolognesa (kind of a lemony cream), and a couple fruit flavors: mango and strawberry. All were great, although I almost always prefer the creamy/nutty/coffee/chocolatey flavors over anything fruit. My favorite by far was the "Guglielmo" flavor (marscapone, espresso, crispy crunchy cocoa nibs) - so good! With free whipped cream.
Out of the Box again: mango, strawberry, stracciatella. The fruit ones were good, but I do like the creamy flavors more.
Back to Out of the Box gelateria - coffee & cocoa nibs again, nocciola (hazelnuts), and tried the crema bolognesa which everyone seemed to be getting... I didn't really like it, a bit lemony
Previous Favorite in Milan (but still great): Chocolat (Via Giovanni Boccaccio, 9, 20123, near Cadorna train station)
They're known for having a few different varieties of chocolate gelato (not surprisingly). I came by here a couple times due to their strategic location near Cadorna train station, and had the coffee, 100% pure chocolate with cocoa nibs, coconut, nocciola, and "creamy crunchy" which I saw a lot of people get but I ended up not liking it much - a bit too sweet for me. My favorite was the chocolate fondente (dark chocolate),
Another Good Modena Option: K2 Gelateria (Corso Canalgrande, 67, 41121 Modena)
I was pretty stuffed when I came to K2, but felt the urge to squeeze in another gelato before turning in for the night. Here I had coconut and chocolate fondente (dark chocolate), and After Eight (mint chocolate) ... all really good.
The Rest: From good to okay
At Alchimie (Corso Monforte 18, 20122 Milan), I had the coffee, "variegata cremosa," kind of like a candy bar, and a pistachio white chocolate flavor that the staff recommended over pistachio.
At Toldo (Via Ponte Vetero, 9, 20100 Milano), I had pistachio, coffee, and cinnamon.
In between Buonarroti and Wagner metro stations, I came across an old-school-looking ice cream shop, Cremeria Buonarroti (Via Buonarroti, 9, 20149 Milano. I tried coffee and another flavor I can't remember... fiori di latte?
Back to Modena, I went to Emilia Cremeria (Piazza Mazzini Giuseppe, 17, 41121 Modena, but it's a chain with other locations) based on my Airbnb host's recommendation as "the best" in Modena. Honestly, my pistacchio and nocciola were a bit too sweet for me.
Recommended by NY Times for Parma, Banchini (Via Nazario Sauro 11A
43121 Parma) this gelato was kind of a disappointment. That mint and chocolate flavor stood out as seeming rather artificial with its bright color. Service was nice though.
As I was writing this post, I was already dreaming of flying back to try even more new gelaterias, and of course return to my favorites!