The Gelateria La Carraia in Florence – a small, family-run ice cream parlour known for its high-quality gelato.

The Gelateria La Carraia in Florence – a small, family-run ice cream parlour known for its high-quality gelato.
@ Liu yu shan /

How Italians recognise a good ice cream parlour

Ice cream

Gelato is much more than just a refreshment on hot summer days; it is an integral part of Italian culture and lifestyle. But how do true connoisseurs recognise a truly outstanding ice cream parlour? Falstaff knows the most important clues.

Gelato is more than just a sweet refreshment – it is a symbol of the Italian way of life. Visiting an ice cream parlour is a daily ritual for many Italians, especially on warm summer days. But not every gelateria offers the same quality. While tourists often fall for the first colourful store, Italians know exactly how to find the best gelato. There are a few key characteristics that make an outstanding ice cream parlour and that are passed down from generation to generation in Italy.

Pay attention to the colour!

For Italians, the pleasure of a gelato starts with the ingredients. A really good ice cream parlour uses only fresh, seasonal and natural produce. Artificial flavours, colourings or preservatives have no place in a real gelato. The colours of the ice cream are natural and subtle – pistachio ice cream, for example, has a soft, earthy tone and is not bright green. Fruit that is out of season should make you sceptical. Only seasonal fruits guarantee the authentic taste that connoisseurs appreciate so much.

Covered containers vs. metre-high ice towers

Another sign of authenticity and quality in an ice cream parlour are covered containers in which the ice cream is stored. These traditional, usually round metal containers protect the gelato from light and air, which preserves the freshness and consistency of the ice cream. An ice cream parlour or ice cream van that uses this method shows that it values the best possible quality. These covers are a sign of high-quality ice cream and underline the authenticity of the gelateria.

In contrast, containers in which the ice cream piles up can be a sign that the gelato has been enriched with preservatives or other additives to maintain its shape and consistency. Such an ice cream may look tempting at first glance, but connoisseurs know that real quality is characterised by other features.

Pay attention to the consistency

Another hallmark of a first-class ice cream parlour is the consistency of the gelato. It should be creamy and velvety, not too hard and not too soft. Gelato must be served at the right temperature to maintain its ideal texture. It melts easily on the tongue without becoming watery. This perfect creamy consistency can only be achieved through a careful production process and the right mixture of ingredients.

Authentic flavours

Italians appreciate the traditional variety of flavours. Classics such as stracciatella, pistachio, nocciola (hazelnut) or lemon are a must in a good ice cream parlour. Although creative and exotic creations are also welcome, the basis must always be solid and authentic. A true gelato master likes to experiment, but never loses sight of the roots of the Italian gelato tradition.

Less is more

The way the gelato is presented speaks volumes about the quality of an ice cream parlour. Italian ice cream parlours make sure that the ice cream varieties in the display case are not over-decorated. A simple, elegant appearance is a sign of quality. The ice cream parlour should also be clean and tidy. A well-maintained salesroom and hygienic conditions are essential. Less is more: a balanced range of carefully selected varieties speaks for the gelatier's dedication to his craft. An ice cream parlour that focuses on a limited selection of flavours shows that the ice cream makers value quality and not quantity.

You should be skeptical about unnaturally bright colors – real gelato varieties have natural and subtle hues.
© Shutterstock
You should be skeptical about unnaturally bright colors – real gelato varieties have natural and subtle hues.

Local recognition

In Italy, word of mouth plays a major role. A good ice cream parlour has built up its reputation over the years and enjoys the trust of the locals. Italians often rely on recommendations from friends and family when it comes to trying out a new ice cream parlour. A lively flow of visitors from the locals is an indicator of the quality of the gelato.

Passion and craftsmanship

The true essence of a great ice cream parlour lies in the passion and craftsmanship of the gelato maker. The best gelato makers are proud of their work and see every cup of gelato as a small work of art. They master traditional techniques, but are also open to innovation. In Italy, an outstanding ice cream parlour is more than just a place to refresh yourself. It embodies culture, tradition and craftsmanship. Italians recognise a good ice cream parlour by the quality of the ingredients, the perfect consistency, a careful selection of authentic varieties and an elegant presentation. But the heart of the matter remains the gelato maker's passion. Because only those who love their craft can create true gelato works of art that not only touch the palate, but also the soul.

Piazza Nazario Sauro 25
50124 Florence

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Maximilian Tröstl
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