Well. Here we are mid-to-late May, and it feels like summer’s in full swing. At 8:00 this morning, pedestrians were plying the sidewalks, wishing they’d worn less. It’s hot. And in the afternoons, Milan wears its preferred warm weather adjective: afoso. Which is to say: stuffy, steamy, heavy, humidity-laden, no relief in sight. But wait. There is relief. And it comes in a cone, cup or—as my gracious lunch guest last Friday reminded me with her well-chosen gift—a funky styrofoam delivery box (or two).
I try to avoid blogging about the clichés of living in Italy. But there are clichés that deserve endless celebration, and as the thermometer ticks up, gelato is most certainly one of them. Famous among tourists, Italian gelati are no less loved by natives. They are, as the first paragraph implies, a drug that soothes one of the greatest national ills, an icky climate.
My favorite gelaterie have crates of fresh fruit stacked by the door. And their strawberry sorbetto actually tastes like the strawberries you see sitting there. Ditto for melon, mango, fig and grapefruit. Their granite are made fresh (some day I’ll introduce you to the recipe for granita al caffè with cream “over and under”). Their chocolate varieties range in color from dark brown to near-black. And their fior di latte tastes like the very soul of fresh milk, sugar and not much else.
If you are ever in Milan, and some of you will be here very soon, I recommend that you make a visit to Il Massimo del Gelato, at the most unfashionable address of via Castelvetro 18. Don’t be intimidated by the line outside the door; it’s there for the same reason you are: quite possibly some of the most delectable gelati in Milan including, without a doubt, the greatest/longest/most impressive list of chocolate flavors in the city.
•Esmeralda (classic chocolate)
•Domori (75% dark chocolate)
•Oro Puro (100% chocolate served with flakes of gold)
•Azteco (chocolate spiced with hot pepper and cinammon)
•Gianduia (chocolate with pureed hazelnut)
•Wiener Küsschen (a version of Bacio, an Italian flavor named “kiss” which includes chocolate and chopped hazelnut)
•Cavour (a re-interpreation of an old Torinese flavor: coffee, cinnamon, chocolate and rose oil)
•Fiji (chocolate, Gran Marnier, and candied orange rind)
•Jamaica (75% dark chocolate with rum)
•I end the list with a well placed “Etc.” Confusion will be your delight.
NOTE: If you are in a position to bring Italian ice cream home, you’ll notice that it doesn’t live as well in a freezer as American ice-cream might. The freezer is simply too cold. Take it out before eating, and let it soften.