What is Gelato?


Frozen desserts were first described as far back as 3000 B.C. by the Chinese who consumed crushed ice or snow with fruit juice or milk and sugar. Egyptian hieroglyphics depicted a vessel of snow and fruit juices approximately 500 years later. The first mention of Italian frozen desserts occurred during the time of Emperor Nero who had slaves bring ice from the volcanic slopes of Mt. Etna and Vesuvius and covering it with honey and wine.

Bernardo Buontalenti is generally credited with inventing gelato in the late 1500's when he served a creamy frozen dessert to the King of Spain during a feast commissioned by the Medici family. Francesco Procopio popularized the dessert when he started serving a refined version in egg shaped glasses at his hugely successful Parisian cafe, Le Procope. Gelato made its way to America in 1770 when Giovanni Basiolo brought it to New York City.


Gelato is a frozen dessert that originates from Italy and is known for its intense flavors, artisan presentation, and nutritional value. Although somewhat similar to ice cream, gelato differs in ingredients, production, presentation, and nutrition. From fresh hazelnuts and pistachios to real strawberries and mangos, gelato is comprised of all natural ingredients. There are no artificial sweeteners or flavors.

Gelato is considered a healthy dessert for a variety of reasons. While the nutritional content of each cup of gelato varies, gelato contains approximately 50% less fat compared to ice cream and therefore fewer calories. The richest ice creams contain anywhere from 10 to 30% fat.* Gelato only has 4-8% fat. Gelato also includes a good amount of protein, especially when made with milk and/or nuts. Because gelato is made from milk, it can also be a great source of calcium for non-milk drinkers. Sorbetto is a version of gelato made with water instead of milk. A fruit-based sorbetto contains zero fat and will have a high amount of vitamins. In Italy, gelato is something consumed at all times of the day. The high amounts of protein plus decreased fat content make it a desirable food for those on strict calorie counts.

Our ingredients are all prepared by hand. An on site machine specifically designed for gelato churns the mixture to increase volume and create a smooth texture. Gelato contains no more than 30% air, compared to the 50-100% in ice cream, resulting in more intense flavors.

Also, gelato is served at 10oF compared to -16oF for ice cream. This further enhances the flavors as taste buds are less frozen and the gelato more readily melts in the mouth.

For a preview of what you can enjoy at Sweet Orchid please see our Menu or Cake Designs page.

* Ehrenfeld, Temma . "Six of the Most Fattening Ice Cream Flavors." Newsweek Web Exclusive. May 22, 2008.