Buon appetito means “enjoy your meal!” in Italy… and when Italians say this, they mean it. If you’ve been brainstorming an Italian getaway when the worst of the pandemic is behind us, it sounds like the Italian government is looking to guarantee you the best eating ever. In fact, Italy is making considerations to place parameters around one must-eat Italian treat so that if it’s not l’ottimo—meaning, the best you’ve ever had—the person who sells it to you may pay a huge price.
Australia’s The Age reports that the Italian Senate’s commerce and tourism commission is examining how to punish gelato producers who pump high amounts of compressed air into their gelato formulas. The Senate is said to be considering proposals to put strict limits on how much air is allowed to go into gelato. Makers who disobey the potential gelato quality standards could face a fine of up to 10,000 Euros, which, at press time, is just over $12,000 U.S.
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It’s serious stuff for an innocent treat, but indeed, gelato-making is a highly specialized craft. Anyone who’s tasted a good, Italian gelato knows that part of what makes it so unique from other ice cream experiences is its density.
In fact, John Ireland, the executive chef at the Saratoga Golf & Polo Club in Saratoga Springs, New York explains: “Ice cream is churned faster than gelato, creating a lighter, fluffier texture made of 50% air. Then, it’s frozen at around zero degrees.” Conversely, the slow churn in gelato-making makes it denser, Ireland says, with a 25% to 30% air content before it’s frozen at 15 degrees. All this preparation makes gelato the creamier of the two.
Getting their recipes just right is often what gives Italian food that “a little goes a long way” vibe and makes their appropriate portion sizes so satisfying. It’s clear some Italian decision-makers recognize this, as one senator said, “Italian gelato is one of the gastronomic symbols of our country, along with pasta and pizza.”
On the flip side, some gelato artisans argue that when it’s done right, pumping air into gelato makes the consistency even better.
No matter how you like your gelato, if we’ve got you craving Italian but it’s a little too soon to travel, check out The Best Italian Restaurant in Every State.
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