ALOTTA GELATO

The high-class ice cream alternative from Italy is taking off in the U.S. Which brand tastes the best?

By Venessa Wong

MAPLE’S ORGANICS | G.S. GELATO | GELATO DI BABBO | TALENTI | CIAO BELLA | HAAGEN-DAZS

PHOTOGRAPH BY VICTOR PRADO

Gelato’s different from ice cream: Churned at a slower speed and using more milk than cream, it has less fat. It should be dense and rich and have an appealing elastic texture. We got five gelato experts to judge six of the biggest sellers.

COSIMO CECCHINI

Cecchini, a 26-year-old from Molfetta, Italy, is studying English at the New York Language Center. He grew up on authentic gelato.

JON SNYDER

Snyder founded Il Laboratorio del Gelato in 2002. Now in 300-plus stores in New York, it’s rated the city’s best by Zagat.

MEREDITH KURTZMAN

Kurtzman is the pastry chef at Mario Batali’s Otto in New York. She makes its olive oil gelato, among other flavors.

SUSIE AND OWEN

Susie (age 11) and Owen (age 8) are regular consumers of ice cream and gelato. They would have preferred chocolate.

GELATO DI BABBO VANILLA BEAN

Kim Zanni started Gelato di Babbo in Lititz, Pa., in 2007. She says she designed her recipes to be the “lowest-fat, lowest-cholesterol true gelato on the market.” $4.99

Design

Susie: “It’s really cute. I love how it’s done, but I don’t think there should be all different languages, because I can’t read it.”

Cecchini: “Pink shouldn’t be for vanilla—it should be for other flavors.”

Creaminess

Kurtzman: “Skim milk makes it lighter.”

Texture

Kurtzman: “Definitely fluffy.”

Cecchini: “There’s too much ice.”

Snyder: “It’s a little light and fluffy.”

Flavor

Cecchini: “Too sweet.”

Kurtzman: “There’s not enough flavor in it.”

Snyder: “It’s plain. Some people like that. I like a little more vanilla.”

Overall grade B-

TALENTI TAHITIAN VANILLA BEAN

Talenti, founded in 2003 in Minneapolis, has grown into America’s best-selling gelato brand, with more than $49 million in revenue last year. Sales are expected to reach $100 million in 2013. $4.99

Design

Cecchini: “Great packaging. A clean and cool container.”

Kurtzman: “The hippie in me says it’s not biodegradable.”

Owen: “Ooh, la la!”

Creaminess

Snyder: “It’s not too heavy. That’s a good thing.”

Texture

Kurtzman: “Has a good texture—not quite like ice cream.”

Flavor

Snyder: “It has a strong vanilla extract that I’m not crazy about.”

Overall grade B

G.S. GELATO TAHITIAN VANILLA

Founded in 1996 by Italian couple Guido Tremolini and Simona Faroni, G.S. Gelato manufactures its product in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. $5.99

Design

Kurtzman: “It really isn’t very eye-catching.”

Creaminess

Cecchini: “A good mix. Not too watery, not too creamy.”

Texture

Kurtzman: “It has dextrose and glucose to make it stretchy.”

Snyder: “I don’t like it. It has gumminess to it.”

Flavor

Snyder: “Doesn’t taste like vanilla. It tastes like marshmallow.”

Cecchini: “It’s more sweet than vanilla should be.”

Overall grade C

CIAO BELLA TAHITIAN VANILLA

Ciao Bella, co-founded in New York by taste tester Jon Snyder in 1983 (he sold the company in 1989), has grown into a nationally distributed brand of all-natural gelato, sorbet, and Greek fro-yo. It’s now made in Eugene, Ore. $4.99

Design

Cecchini: “Like Talenti, it has an Italian name. If I saw it in the supermarket, that would be important to me.”

Susie: “I like the colors. And it says, ‘Classically exotic’!”

Snyder: “I’m not really into the design. I think it’s kind of boring.”

Creaminess

Snyder: “Tastes like they haven’t messed with the butter-fat content too much since I sold them my recipes.”

Owen: “I like it!”

Texture

Snyder: “I think the texture and lightness are good.”

Kurtzman: “Great texture.”

Flavor

Kurtzman: “Not quite enough vanilla flavor.”

Susie: “There are little beans in it. Mmm.”

Cecchini: “Not too much vanilla, which is good.”

Snyder: “It has a very nice vanilla flavor.”

Overall grade A

HAAGEN-DAZS VANILLA BEAN

In April, Häagen-Dazs released its new line of gelato nationally. Available in seven flavors, it’s being marketed as “a spoonful of Italy.” The company first offered gelato in 1998 but discontinued it four years later. $4.79

Design

Cecchini: “The black is good. You can see the vanilla flower.”

Snyder: “It’s an iconic Häagen-Dazs container but not an incredible design.”

Susie: “I don’t love the black-and-gold combo.”

Creaminess

Kurtzman: “This uses skim milk, but it’s still good.”

Cecchini: “It’s creamy, and you can taste the milk. This is like Italian gelato.”

Texture

Kurtzman: “It’s stretchy and has an authentic gelato texture.”

Flavor

Snyder: “I’m not tasting vanilla. I don’t dislike it, but it’s sweeter than I like.”

Kurtzman: “It’s a good vanilla, but it’s missing something. A little salt could bring out the flavor.”

Overall grade A-

MAPLE’S ORGANICS VANILLA BEAN

Maple’s Organics, in Yarmouth, Me., was founded in 2006. The company uses only organic milk from local farms for its gluten-free gelato. $6.49

Design

Snyder: “The design I like. They’re trying to do something a little different, so props to that.”

Creaminess

Snyder: “There’s something lighter going on. It’s not heavy.”

Texture

Kurtzman: “An acceptable gelato texture.”

Flavor

Cecchini: “The flavor’s not too strong. In Italy the vanilla’s not too strong.”

Kurtzman: “I look for dots, and there’s not a single dot.”

Snyder: “I like this. It’s not overly sweet.”

Overall grade B+


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