Thursday, August 30, 2012

Things I'll Miss About Germany: Gelato

My favorite gelato shop in Mannheim, Vittoria Gelateria.
I remember my first scoop of gelato distinctly.  I purchased it during my first four months in Germany, during the summer of 2010, while Kyle and I were busy hurdling unfamiliar German customs (and a language barrier) so that we could be married.  

One day while Kyle was working a painfully long shift, a friend invited me to explore the local mall.  I agreed immediately.  I was dying to get out of the tiny room I'd been inhabiting for weeks.  The two of us, with her two tiny sons in tow, hopped on the tram for a single stop, then plunged into an impromptu shopping marathon.  We browsed every shop in the building without pause.  By the time we reached the end, everyone was exhausted.  So when the older of my friend's boys said, "Mommy, I want ice cream," with wide eyes, droopy limbs, and lower lip slightly protruding, we were quick to oblige.

We marched up to a counter filled with the most unusual "ice cream" I'd ever seen.  It looked like American-style soft serve poured into large metal tubs.  Some were garnished with an array of colorful toppings, others left plain.  Each tub bore a label emblazoned with the flavor and illustrations for clarity.  There was bright strawberry, speckled with the fruit's seeds, dark, rich chocolate, and creamy mocha, dusted with coffee powder and chocolate curls.  My eyes caught on a tub of cream only slightly tinged yellow.  The protruding label read "Zitrone," and showed a little pile of lemons.

Lemon ice cream?

Curious, I shuffled forward on my turn and ordered a single scoop of the unfamiliar flavor.  "One of the...lemon?...please," I gestured toward the pale yellow ice cream.

The lady behind the counter smiled and said, "Ah, Zitrone."  Her accent made the word sound beautiful.  Later that night I'd practice repeating it: "Tseet-ROH-neh."  She rolled a scoop into a large ball, plopped it into a paper cup, and we made our exchange:  the ice cream for a single euro coin.

My eyes widened on the first taste, and I thought, "This is not ice cream!"  It was better.  I had another spoonful.  The consistency was nothing like I expected, and the taste was incredible.  Gelato is smoother and more dense than fluffy, American ice cream, and the flavor is much more concentrated.  This lemon tasted exactly like my favorite lemonade from the states:  a perfect balance of tart citrus and simple, sweet sugar.  I ate every last bite, and then unabashedly licked the cup clean.

Eiscafe Italia in Bacharach:  home to the best lemon gelato I've sampled.
The next few times I ordered gelato, I requested the same, wonderful Zitrone.  I was happy to try out the pronunciation, and happier to indulge in my new favorite treat.  But soon I wanted to sample everything.  In the two years I've spent here, I have tasted almost every flavor available.  I adore the rich berry flavors and the almost bittersweet chocolates.  The caramel and mocha are creamier than you can imagine.  Grapefruit is true to flavor -- sweet at first, with a bitter aftertaste.  Two of the most unusual flavors, "Schwarzwaldkirshe," (black forest cherry:  a dark chocolate base drenched with tart cherry sauce, speckled with whole cherries) and "Muffin," were fantastic.

My favorite flavor is still the tart, sugary lemon.  Kyle, on the other hand, loves Stracciatella, a creamy vanilla swirled with bits of chocolate.  But then he has never tried any other flavor.  He isn't exactly adventurous where food is involved.

Oh, gelato.  I will never forget you.  (Or what you did to my waistline.)


  1. though i'm sure its nowhere near as good as the gelato over there, there are a few gelato stores around here. my favorite one recently closed (i guess gelato is one of the things people cut out of their expenses in the recession), but i'm hoping the rest didn't. i haven't really gone out looking.

    i'm not sure where in new york it is, but the other day i was watching the food network and they were at some apparently magnificent gelato on a stick place in ny. maybe it'll end up being close to where you guys are moving.

    1. I did some googling and found one gelato shop in Louisville, which is about two hours from my hometown. A couple of my girlfriends and I are going to drive up and check it out while we're in Kentucky on leave. I hope it's good! A couple of the reviewers said it made them nostalgic for Italy, so I took that as a good sign.

  2. oh, and i forgot to say that i love that picture with you and the ice cream cone (gelato cone?).

    1. lol. You can have your gelato in a cup or a "waffle," which I find hilarious. No one calls it a cone. I just imagine them scooping it on a breakfast waffle...

    2. lool if i ordered it in a waffle i would definitely expect it to come out on a breakfast waffle. and let us know how the american gelato compares with the european when you try it.

  3. i LOOOOEV gelato. i want some, now!

  4. Now I've got to try the gelato place near my home.

    It's amazing what an impression food can make on us, and leave on us. And I don't mean on our waist line. :)

    1. You must! ;)

      And you make a good point. I'm a firm believer that food feeds your soul every bit as much as it does your body.

  5. You will find it in New York. it is all over Chicago!!


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