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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Warm days cool gelato

    As the balmy weather settles into Tucson, take a stroll outside and toward a pint of gelato at one of Tucson’s gelaterias.

    Why choose gelato over ice cream? Its flavor is more intense than ice cream, which is due to how gelato is made.

    Two factors affect the flavor of gelato: density and lower milkfat (or butterfat) content. There’s less air in gelato than ice cream – 25-30 percent versus up to 50 percent by volume in ice cream.

    The rich flavor of ice cream depends on its fat content. Ice cream, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, must have at least “”20 percent total milk solids, constituted of not less than 10 percent milkfat.”” So-called super premium ice creams like Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s have at least 16 percent fat.

    On the other hand, gelato can have anywhere from 3-7 percent fat, depending on the recipe. With less fat in it, gelato requires more of the star ingredient to provide the flavor.

    So where can you find great gelato in Tucson? Here are the contenders:


    3175 N. Campbell Ave.

    (520) 795-0757

    The gelati (plural for gelato) can be hit and missed at its lone location at Campbell Avenue and Fort Lowell Road. The flavors were strong but the gelati occasionally tasted stale, and they often had the wrong texture to them. There were noticeable ice crystals when eaten – a sign of inappropriate storage temperature or of being kept for too long. The safe bet would be to go for their frozen yogurt or ice cream.

    Gelato! Dessert Café

    3308 E. Grant Rd.

    (520) 269-2243

    This petite place actually operates out of Marco’s Patisserie, east of Country Club Road and Grant Road. Chef Esther Moore has brought her training from Italy to Tucson, and creates the gelati on a wholesale scale, which means they are only available as pints or larger. With a rotating menu of flavors ranging from French Vanilla and Dutch Chocolate, to butter pecan and peach, it’s hard to go wrong with a pint here. You can also order sandwiches to go with your gelato or a decorated cake for the next special occasion.


    7131 N. Oracle Rd.

    Suite 101

    (520) 797-0188

    The silverback gorilla of Tucson gelaterias, the gelati at any of its three locations are well worth the trip. The servers will ask if you want to sample anything. Saying yes can be a serious mistake because you’ll either fall in love with the first flavor or sample so many of them that you can’t decide what to get. Traditional flavors such as hazelnut and panna cotta are nestled in between unusual flavors like honey, cantaloupe and whatever’s in season. The perfect creaminess and the deep, rich flavors of Frost’s gelati are enough to forego that food tour of Italy.

    Café Italiano

    2485 N. Swan Rd.

    Suite #141

    (520) 393-3396

    Formerly called Fratelli Gelato, this gelateria at the northwest corner of Grant Road and Swan Road is the dark horse competitor in Tucson. At less than a month old, Café Italiano’s gelato rivals Frost’s in terms of flavor and texture. The friendly servers are more than willing to talk about their love of gelato and about the differences between gelato and ice cream. They’ll even help you discover what your palate is craving that day. The inviting interior, with its modern lounge seats and board games, offers a comfortable area to enjoy a piccolo of gelato.

    The best

    A tie between Frost and Café Italiano. Frost offers a futuristic atmosphere in which it serves its traditional gelato, but the interchangeable staff is often no more than just competent in its service and knowledge. Yet it offers what is arguably the best gelato in Tucson. Café Italiano is the new kid in town, hungry enough to take on all contenders with its great staff and its even greater gelato.

    Wherever you go, now is a good time to grab some gelato and enjoy the warm spring weather while it lasts.

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