Gelato and ice-cream are both made by mixing milk, sugar and cream (and sometimes, eggs) until smooth, but they’re not quite the same thing.
Ice-cream contains ten to 25 per cent fat. It’s churned quickly to incorporate more air, then served relatively cold. The aim here is superior richness and a full, creamy mouthfeel.
Gelato is more of a vehicle for highlighting the fresh fruits and nuts it’s flavoured with. The denser Italian treat is churned more slowly than ice cream, and contains less air and fat (five to 10 per cent). It’s also served warmer, bringing those added flavours to the fore.
The latter is more prevalent in Melbourne, due to so many Italians moving here after World War II. But strangely enough, it was hard to find real gelato as recently as ten years ago. Most shops were still using cheap pastes produced in factories, rather than making their gelato from scratch.
All the spots below are committed to doing things the right way. Only a few use stabilisers. Hint: look for pozzetti, the lidded, refrigerated pots which protect fragile gelato from oxidisation. Any shop with a glass case full of perky mounds has almost certainly given its gelato the equivalent of a boob job.
One last thing: if you’re looking to compare the skills of two different shops, order a scoop of pistachio. It’s the industry’s universal benchmark.