What’s The Difference Between Gelato and Ice Cream?

Gelato is Italian for ice-cream, right? Wrong!

I took my friend from Italy to Gelato Messina in Sydney – probably the best frozen dessert shop in the country. My friend agreed that it was the best ice-cream she’d had in Australia, but that it wasn’t gelato. There’s a big difference between the two.

What's the difference between ice cream and gelato

Like Italian cooking, Italian gelato relies on fresh ingredients and simple flavours. Though similar to ice-cream, there are some key differences that make gelato more delicious.

Gelato is made with a higher ratio of milk than cream so has a lower fat content than ice-cream. Gelato is also churned at a slower speed so it contains less air. This denser texture and lower fat content means the flavours are more intense.

Now, when you’re in Italy you will be tempted to stop at any gelato place but not all gelaterias are made the same.

Most gelaterias near tourist areas are made with powder mix and are the fast food of Italy. Instead, look for where the locals go and look for stores with signs that say ‘Produzione Artigianale’ or ‘Produzione Propria’. ‘Produzione Artigianale’ means they make the gelato themselves and ‘Produzione Propria’ means the gelateria makes their product from scratch with local ingredients.

Gelato is – or should be – kept a few degrees warmer than ice-cream but the places that sell the powder mix gelato have product that they can freeze easier. For this reason, they are usually the ones that have it piled high in colourful mounds for all to see.

The upshot of this is that this gelato is colder and therefore icier than the gelato that is covered. And we don’t want ice in our gelato, do we? That would make it literally ‘ice cream’!

Images by Mrs Romance.


  • Reply June 13, 2013


    Thank you!!! I wish I had known this 6 months ago… I was really nonplussed by the gelato I had in Italy. Oh well, next time!

    • Reply June 15, 2013

      Mr Romance

      Glad we could help, Catherine! What a shame you didn’t find a good gelatoria while you were there. I always thought the big mounds of gelato meant the best gelato… until Mrs Romance educated me!

      Hope you get back to Italy at some point and right the gelato wrongs done to you!



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