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Best Authentic Gelato in the U.S.

Morano Gelato

Morano Gelato

Density makes this frozen treat delectable. Here are our picks for this Italian-inspired icey cream at its best.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel Eat, Pray, Love, she waxes poetic about the melt-in-your-mouth rapturous cream. And of course she would. Gelato is a delectable treat that originally hails from Italy, and it’s come to have a cult following.

It’s similar to ice cream, but gelato has a lower butterfat content and isn’t whipped, resulting in a smoother, denser consistency. Ice cream contains about 50-percent air, which attributes to its fluffiness. It also has about 30 percent cream and butter. By contrast, gelato has only 10 percent air and seven percent cream and butter, which makes gelato taste a lot more decadent than it really is. To almost quote another movie, “You had me at density.”

At lower temperatures, the flavors of gelato truly stand out, and the treat has a dense creaminess that is hard to beat. Here are our top picks for the best gelato in the U.S., and even if you have to travel a little to get there, it’s worth the trip.

Morano Gelato on a Sugar Cone

Morano Gelato

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Morano Gelato
What started as a small farmer’s market gelateria in Hanover, New Hampshire with only two flavors, Morano Gelato now has three locations in New England. Morano Gelato was started by Morgan Morano, who was born in Hanover but relocated to Italy for six years and studied the art of gelato making under a Sicilian chef. She moved back to her hometown and started her own gelateria after realizing she simply could not get good gelato anywhere nearby.

Il Dolce Gelato in Waffle Cones

Il Dolce Gelato

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Il Dolce Gelato
This upscale gelateria seems out of place in Norman, Oklahoma, but this is soon forgotten at the first spoonful of perfectly creamy, perfectly dense gelato. The family-owned shop was started in 2007 by an authentic gelato maker who received his training directly from a renowned Italian gelato maker.

Every flavor at Il Dolce Gelato is handmade from scratch in keeping with gelato-making tradition, and the family sources premium ingredients directly from Italy, including Sicilian pistachios and Madagascar vanilla beans. Choose from any of the gelateria’s 24 delectable flavors, which change from day to day and season to season.

Gaia Gelato in Carlsbad California

Gaia Gelato

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Gaia Gelato
Tucked away in the Village Faire Shopping Center in Carlsbad, California, Gaia Gelato is the perfect place to enjoy a cup or cone of the creamy Italian dessert. The fresh, modern interior is gorgeously decorated to create a homey yet clean feel. Eat in, or take your gelato to go for a treat on the beach—it’s just a couple of blocks away.

The gelato is handmade in small batches, and you’ll find new flavors every time you visit. Try a classic flavor like amaretto, stracciatella or tiramisu, or step outside the box and order zabaione (a Sicilian custard) or the shop’s signature flavor Gaia Cremino—a mixture of vanilla, chocolate and almond marzipan.

Black Dog Gelato in a Bowl

Black Dog Gelato

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Black Dog Gelato
While the owner of Black Dog Gelato is a former pastry chef, she has earned her place among top gelaterias with her top-notch recipes and unique flavors. Jessica Oloroso is committed to fine gelato making, serving only gelato that was made that morning and is certified by the FDA to manufacture and pasteurize her own gelato base. Few gelaterias can say that!

Black Dog Gelato offers some classic flavors for patrons that don’t want to stray too far from the norm, like chocolate, malted vanilla and mint cookie. But if you’re looking for something adventurous, this is definitely the place to go. Always in the case is goat cheese cashew caramel and blueberry french toast, and patrons can try new flavors every month, like sesame fig chocolate chip, butterscotch bourbon praline and toasted white chocolate lavender.

Gelato Paradiso, an authentic Italian Gelateria

Gelato Paradiso

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Gelato Paradiso
Gelato Paradiso strives to make its gelato as authentic as possible by using Italian imported equipment and ingredients. Like all authentic gelaterias, Gelato Paradiso serves its confections in small batches made early in the morning, so each scoop is as fresh as possible. You won’t find a great deal of off-the-wall flavors, the classics are hard to beat. Toasted almonds, graham crackers, Oreo cookies, Argentinian caramel, Guatemalan bananas and coffee liqueur are used to create flavors that you know and love, with the unique texture and smoothness of gelato.

Stefano Versace Gelato

Photo by CoolR / Shutterstock

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Stefano Versace Gelato
Italian entrepreneur Stefano Versace is bringing Old-World Italian gelato to the U.S. in droves. Stefano Versace Gelato has 23 locations in six states. From Florida to Pennsylvania to Georgia, you can find Stefano’s authentic gelato in marketplaces, malls and shopping centers. Many people make the mistake of assuming that because the locations are more commercial that the gelato simply isn’t authentic—nothing could be further from the truth.

While the shops might lack the charm of small town eateries, the gelato is made fresh every day with superior ingredients. Classic flavors include pistacchio, caffe, tiramisu and caramello, while special flavors include champagne, red velvet, whisky cream and gorgonzola pera e noci.

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