Lower in fat, denser in texture, and served semi-frozen, gelato is ice cream's Italian cousin; one who came to the U.S. and struck gold.
Ubiquitous across Italy and other parts of Europe, gelato has taken root in restaurants and supermarkets, with nationwide sales growing by 3 percent to 4 percent a year since 2012, according to several market-research studies.
In the Philadelphia area, gelato can be found in restaurants such as Osteria, which makes it in-house in flavors including licorice, as well as shops such as Anthony's Italian Coffee House in the Italian Market, which serves such traditional flavors as pistachio.
Gelato is made with more milk than cream, and, unlike ice cream, rarely includes egg yolks. It's churned at a slower pace, which gives it a creamier, silkier texture more akin to soft-serve ice cream that melts away on the tongue. The slow churning also means there's less air in artisanal gelato. As a result, it often tastes more flavor-packed than a serving of ice cream.
Here are a few of the newest scoops in the Philadelphia region:
Ruby chocolate chip at Classic Cake, 480 Evesham Rd., Cherry Hill. Culinary director/pastry chef Robert Bennett recently found himself the recipient of a few pounds of ruby chocolate, a rare variety that was developed by Swiss-Belgian company Barry Callebaut and unveiled in Shanghai last year. Made from a "ruby" cocoa bean, the chocolate has a pink color and tastes more like white chocolate than dark, with a slightly fruity undertone. Bennett turned his supply into a limited-edition gelato flavor that is made from vanilla base and chips of the exotic candy.
Pineapple chili at Capofitto, 233 Chestnut St. The Old City outpost of Stephanie and John Reitano's Capogiro gelato empire has a rotating selection of flavors, the newest of which is a sweet-spicy treat that evokes a refreshing Piña Colada with a touch of heat. The sweetness of golden pineapple is offset by a tangy spice from Thai chilis. Capofitto and several Capogiro locations also regularly feature a ruby red grapefruit and Campari gelato that tastes like a refreshing segue to an evening happy hour.
Vanilla blast and coconut basil at the Icery, 23 N. Lansdowne Ave., Lansdowne. Owner Danny Losacco wanted to capture the nostalgia of the old-school sundae cones you might find in the freezer section of a bodega or supermarket. The result is vanilla gelato studded with crunchy bits of waffle cone, peanuts, and bits of chocolate and caramel. He also recently whipped up a coconut basil flavor that tastes light, refreshing and mildly herbaceous, like a cold drink made with coconut milk.