Gelato Is Not Ice Cream, It’s Better: 4 Reasons Why


It’s an Italian chef who sets me straight on the incontrovertible fact that gelato is NOT ice cream. As Maurizio Gibillini, chef-owner of Pagliacci at the Podium, Maurizio in Salcedo Village, and Gelatone in Greenbelt tells me, “Gelato is gelato and ice cream is ice cream. They are two very different things.” He wrinkles his nose, as if to prove his point and then adds, “The flavor in gelato comes out because of the composition of the ingredients, the harmony of the ingredients. The flavor is not just in your mouth, but also in your throat.”

Gelato, which literally means “frozen” is the Italian word for ice cream. The Italian specialty has been around since the late 16th century with a history that’s complicated and at times obscure, but its invention is credited to Bernardo Buontalenti, the great Italian Renaissance artist for the court of Francesco de’ Medici in 1565.

Manila’s new disciples of gelato are Marilyn and Gwen Dee, sisters and co-owners of Angelati Italia. Currently available by order only and served in select establishments, it’s a product of inspiration galvanized by the gelaterias the pair saw in their travels. To them, it made sense that with Manila’s hot weather and Filipinos’ inherent love for Italian food, gelato would be embraced too. As for that clever twist on the words ‘angel’ and ‘gelato’, Gwen says, “Angelati Italia is actually the brand of our gelato. Angelati is a coined word from Angel and Gelati (plural of gelato) that we have come up with. We wanted to use Angel to exude the angelic and heavenly side of our gelato, which is low-fat, almost sinless, and good for everyone. Italia is used to show the Italian authenticity of our gelato.”

Deciding to go to the source, Marilyn and Gwen took a crash course in gelato-making in Italy. For three weeks, they trained under a gelato-maker and gelateria-owner. “It wasn’t as simple as we thought,” recollects Gwen.“The training involved knowledge on gelato, history of gelato and the technicalities of producing gelato.” To keep them sharp, the sisters’ Italian mentor visits them regularly (in Manila) to see how they’re doing.

blueberry cheesecake gelato

Difference #1: Small batches
There are several differences between gelato and ice cream. Consider commercial ice cream as we know it, those various tubs that we pick up in the supermarket chillers. Those are made in large batches and kept frozen for long periods of time. On the other hand, the best gelato is made daily in small batches. If frozen too far ahead, gelato loses the silkiness that sets it apart from mere ice cream.

Angelati Italia’s Blueberry Cheesecake gelato illustrates this point beautifully. As anyone who’s worked with blueberries as an ingredient knows, the luscious berries need to be handled with utmost care as they have a propensity to make whatever they’re mixed in with into an eerie shade of magenta – or mildew green, if you’re terribly unlucky. This particular gelato however is gently swirled into the frozen mixture, causing the berries to ooze their proper purple. It’s creamy and sweet, resulting in the most elegant of gelato styles.

Nutella gelato with a cookie

Difference #2: Less or no overrun
Air, of course, increases the volume – overrun – of any frozen dessert, a fact that manufacturers take full advantage of to produce and sell more of their product. Even a better-quality ice cream might have an overrun of as much as 50%. In contrast, traditionally-made gelato should contain under 20% overrun or 10% air. Less overrun results in a denser, creamier texture than that of ice cream, despite the lower butterfat content. (Butterfat are the fatty particles in milk that are separated out to make cream. The higher the milkfat content, the richer the product.) Most premium ice creams have a butterfat content of 15-18%; gelato’s butterfat content normally runs from 4-14%. (A caveat: while gelato’s lower butterfat content might make it seem like a “healthier” treat, it isn’t something you can blithely pig out on.)

My benchmark for good flavor when I’m eating gelato is the hazelnut or nocciola. Italians have an unrepentant love affair with it and when mixed with chocolate (cioccolato), you get gianduja, which is what Angelati Italia’s Nutella Choco Wafer is. Gradations of chocolate descend into nuances of hazelnut, their harmony interrupted only by what could be the crispness of a chocolate wafer. I say, “what could be…” because this gelato’s stellar quality is marred by the sogginess of its wafer. Perhaps the wafers should be frozen before being incorporated into the gelato mixture that should ideally be allowed to chill for a few hours beforehand.


Difference #3: Higher temp
While ice cream can be stored at arctic temperatures down to -23°C, gelato is kept at a warm(er) -13°C. Its density requires a slightly higher serving temperature, that perfect point between firm but not hard, soft but not meltingly so. At most, you won’t wrench your wrist trying to get that first scoop. Ice creams made with alcohol such as Angelati Italia’s Heavenly Tiramisu naturally freeze to a softer consistency and are typically spoon-able directly from the freezer.

A traditional tiramisu is a harmony of coffee, Marsala wine, mascarpone, and chocolate. Gwen tells me that the alcohol used in their Tiramisu gelato is rum. Of the four flavors I’ve tried, this is the one that I liked the least. Once in the mouth, the coffee is run over by the brunt force of the rum. The cocoa powder that’s attractively sifted over the gelato is an attractive touch but is no match for that alcohol attack. So I make a café affogato instead, and pour some fresh espresso over the Tiramisu gelato.

pistachio gelato

Difference #4: The freshest ingredients
A key difference between ice cream and gelato is that gelato is most often made
just from milk. That’s why it has less (butter)fat than ice cream, but you’d never guess that because of its inherent creaminess. Gelato recipes usually include more egg yolks, more milk and less cream. It actually has less fat than regular ice cream, but gelato’s low overrun makes for an extremely dense, rich and creamy treat. In fact, most flavorings are done away with (in gelato) in preference for real ingredients like nuts, chocolate, fruits, liqueurs – all of which aren’t overwhelmed by cream. That’s why it’s customary for a good-quality gelato to have a heightened, truer flavor.

If there is one flavor of Angelati Italia that you must try, I exhort you to choose the Pure Pistachio. True to its name, it’s a sensual overdrive where smooth meets creamy, silky rides on velvety, all cruising along on overtones of pistachio. There are no nuts here, no stray bits of it that will mar this gelato’s exquisite body. I taste the pistachio through and through without feeling a hint of it on my tongue. It’s a haunting seduction for the mouth. In a word, outstanding.

4 flavors of (almost melting) gelato
4 flavors of (almost melting) gelato

By tradition, gelato is produced in flavors associated with Italy, where it originated. Limone (lemon), cappuccino, vaniglia (vanilla), and lampone (raspberry) among others, are standbys at Angelati Italia. But some of their gelati have distinct twists, marks of their creators. “We also created our own signature flavors apart from the usual,” says Gwen. “Choco Banana Peanut Butter, Kibana which is a combination of kiwi and banana, Snickers, Chocolates & Cereals.”

Angelati Italia
(632) 562-2217 / 5590316 (office hours)
P450-P550/liter depending on flavor

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