The world’s first gelato restaurant, the Gelato Bistro of Gelato d’Essai, has launched in Rome, serving sweet ice-cream with savoury food in a novel twist.
Gelato or ice-cream is usually on everyone’s bucket list when visiting Rome and Italy, so why not put the world’s first gelato restaurant on your hit-list for your Roman holiday?
The brainchild of experienced ice-cream maker and store owner Geppy Sferra, Gelato d’Essai is Sferra’s established ice-cream parlour in up-and-coming Centocelle.
Located not far from the Gardenie Metro station, Gelato d’Essai is an incredibly popular local gelato store, offering a great range of interesting and seasonal flavours. You even have the chance to taste freshly prepared gelato on the spot thanks to a cool gelato-making calendar produced by the store.
Since April 2019, a pleasant restaurant space has been created on one side of Gelato d’Essai, dubbed the Gelato Bistro. I went for dinner to find out what all the fuss was about!
The first thing that strikes you is how helpful the photographic menu is. I don’t usually recommend menus with photos, but this glossy book format, resembling a cookery book, prepares you well for what to expect.
It’s such an unusual menu that the images are really useful when putting together your order!
I tried tasting portions of several different types of dishes, so please be aware that actual portions are bigger than those pictured here for the a la carte menu.
The portion sizes displayed however are pretty on point for the degustazione menu, where three dishes of your choice plus one dessert costs a bargain €20. Otherwise, you can go for five dishes of your choice plus dessert for €30 per person, still highly affordable. These prices exclude beverages.
We started with a bruschetta – topped with strawberry ice-cream! Completed with a drizzle of quality, Flaminio olive oil this was a bold beginning. I liked the flavours, although my teeth weren’t prepared for the gum-tingling chill of biting into a gelato topping. Weird but interesting.
Next up, we tried boiled potatoes with Genoa-style pesto, pine nuts and french beans, paired with ‘fior di latte’, essentially, creamed milk gelato. This was a much more successful pairing, and added a lovely creamy note to the pesto.
After this, it was onto perhaps my favourite dish of the evening – gravlax with dill, paired with ginger and grapefruit gelato. This cool plate was dying for a sour-sweet note and was a real hit.
The fish theme continued with baccalà seasoned with cinnamon and paprika, paired with passionfruit gelato and candied peel. This was another successful combination, fresh and tangy.
I was in slight trepidation for the next dish – Rome’s classic second course, coda alla vaccinara (stewed oxtail) – one of my absolutely favourites. This was prepared to perfection however, and paired with pine-nut gelato. I really wanted to love this dish, but the only negative note was that ice-cream had cooled the meat and sauce before it reached the table.
This menu is definitely full of surprises – and so it was that we reached the dessert course – where gelato isn’t listed at all. A fine, Ecuadorian chocolate cake hit the spot here, closing off dinner with a dark, bitter and sweet note.
Overall, I really enjoyed my evening at the Gelato Bistro of Gelato d’Essai. I am not a big gelato eater but the small amounts of ice-cream on the plate proved a fun and unusual twist. For reasons of temperature, I found the cold dishes most successful, but this is definitely an experience worth trying.
Do note, when I went, the restaurant was only open Thursdays to Sundays with only about 16 covers, so was booked up three weekends in advance. Opening will change in the coming months and weeks so it’s best to keep an eye on the facebook page. All in all, definitely take the time to try the Gelato Bistro of Gelato d’Essai in Rome’s Centocelle neighbourhood – you won’t regret it!
Gelato D’Essai da Geppy Sferra | Via Tor de Schiavi 295 | Tel 0039 0664962777