Gelato, Gelato, Gelato

Who doesn't like gelato?! I love it, but it's not easy to find high quality gelato in Italy during the winter time. Most of the places that are open, are not good. I’m highlighting three places with a high quality gelato during my recent trip

Gelateria la Crema Matta, Lucca


Matta just opened when I returned to Lucca in February. Went back two days in a row for fiore di latte/chocolate combo, then a triple of hazelnut/pistachio/crema. Nice density and creaminess on par with the Ferrara gelato. The other gelato location open in Lucca during the winter is Grom, which isn’t much of a gelato to write home about.

Rizzati Gelato, Ferrara


Outstanding density. No air, no ice crystals. They have a portable commercial mixer on premises and scoop the gelato directly out of the mixer. I saw the process at Rizzati and the machine and ingredients were the same I used when I made gelato in Florence. I had almond gelato and it was some of the best I've had.

Venchi Gelato, Bologna


Venchi is near the Mercado di Mezzo in Bologna. Pistachio, which is not my normal selection was a winner. The color is actually what attracted me; it was not neon green like so many gelato places, it was slightly brown or olive tinted, which is what happens when you grind whole pistachio. Great scoop.

Much of the inferior gelato I had this trip was light and airy, not dense and rich like the ones I highlighted above. Are the inferior gelato places whipping the gelato to fast? Are they cutting some corner? Who knows. Many of the inferior places are chain stores or getting the gelato from some commissary, rather than making it onsite.

Pasta Party (with wine)

Gnocchi and Linguine were on the menu Saturday night. Fresh, hand-made and demonstrated by the bald guy in the center picture (me).

The gnocchi were sauced two different ways:

Gnocchi #1 - browned butter with sage and black pepper
Gnocchi #2 - crispy pancetta with basil and garlic topped with fresh Parmigiano Reggiano

The Linguine was sauced with a Bolognese of lamb, beef and pork.

Wines poured that evening:

2014 Mastro Scheidt Sangiovese
2013 Mastro Scheidt Bordeaux Blend
2013 Denner Syrah
2012 Mastro Scheidt Superstrada
La Marca Prosecco

Most of the photos are courtesy of our hosts, John and Falina Marihart. Thanks for letting everyone get flour on your floor!

David rolls out the pasta dough with friend Trisha

David rolls out the pasta dough with friend Trisha

Zingaro in Parma

Parma, home of Proscuitto di Parma was the perfect place to revive The Cured Ham.

For my first real meal in Italy, I chose Osteria Dello Zingaro. Within 5 minutes walking of my apartment, it was an easy choice after browsing about a half-dozen restaurants in my immediate area.

Prosciutto di Parma

Upon the entry of guests and the response from the owner, there appears to be lots of locals, lots of regulars. Taking that cue, everyone starts with some form of cured meat, culatello, Proscuitto, and or salami, with sides of various roasted vegetables and large chunks of Parmigiano. Wine is also ubiquitous, with several bottles of Lambrusco being consumed.

Not one to turn down cured meat, naturally, I had a plate. The salami was served skin-on, which automatically suggested, eat this meat with you hands and peel the skin for yourself. A fairly typical salami, nothing more than salt and pepper. The Proscuitto was the highlight of the plate. Creaminess and depth. All the meats are displayed at room temperature, with a single, dedicated hand to slice everything, repeatedly and efficiently throughout the night.


My second course was pasta. Simple, arugula and ricotta stuffing, with a sauce of butter and grated parmigiano. That's all. How can a dish these days be this simple? When all the elements are executed properly. No fancy garnish. No surprise filling. No complex sauce making. Bringing together the simplicity for some chefs and many customers is difficult, however, I find it refreshing.

Skilled Hands

My final course was a trio of Cavallo, yes, for those who are not Italian, Cavallo equals Horse. And before people freak out, it's a local delicacy and the Italians would think no differently to serve a pig as they would a horse or cute little deer for dinner. Cavallo Tartare served with a simple salt and pepper, while the second was spiced up considerably more with a hot pepper, Tabasco like flavor and then mixed with raw egg, which made it considerably more rich The third preparation was sliced whole loin, quickly seasoned and seared, then allowed to rest cold and then seasoned with olive oil. One of the staff suggested roasted potatoes with my trio.

Seared Loin

Seared Loin

My favorite tartare, upon first bites, was the spicy and enriched with egg, more classic in preparation. However, with my roasted potatoes, the seared loin stood out. The more basic salt and pepper variety of tartare was my least favorite, not because it was poorly prepared, quite the opposite, it was beautiful in color to the eye and gave me a sense for how lean and clean Cavallo can be, it was obviously the purest expression of the three, uncooked and a minimum of ingredients; it probably could have used olive oil to richen it up.

Spicy Tartare

Spicy Tartare

Salt and Pepper Tartare

Salt and Pepper Tartare

Irony. I love the pasta for its simplicity yet I choose the most heavily seasoned tartare for it's complexity. There are no absolutes. And it's not as though the tartare with Tabasco and egg were untraditional or overly complex.

I finished my evening at Zingaro, standing at the counter, talking with the owner and watching the slicing skills at the salami bar. I finished with a grappa, on the house, as a thank you from the owner.

A perfect welcome to Italy.