Ciao Down
Philadelphia Style - July/August 2003
It was the first warm day of spring and I was on the lookout for ice cream when I saw a sign that read, "Capogiro, Gelato Artisans." I thought gelato was similar to ice cream so I decided to find out. The cool blue interior of Capogiro immediately drew my attention to the crystal clear glass cases displaying row after row of creamy, colorful gelato. I took advantage of the fact that Capogiro offers free samples and tried the Gianduia, a chocolate hazelnut gelato. It immediately melted in my mouth - pure chocolate and hazelnut, no ice crystals, no false aftertaste. So why haven't I had ice cream like this before?

According to Stephanie Reitano, the owner of Capogiro, less air is whipped into gelato during production so it is denser and more elastic than typical American ice cream. Additionally, gelato contains only half the fat and half the calories of ice cream, so the true flavors come through rather than the fatty aftertaste. The flavors at Capogiro change daily based on the fresh produce and available ingredients, but they often include treats such as Nocciola (hazelnut), Stracciatella (chocolate chip), plum and apricot, as well as combinations such as rosemary, goat milk and honey and ricotta almond.

You won't find a gelateria on every corner in Philadelphia because producing gelato is labor-intensive and the equipment doesn't come cheap. Reitano and her husband, John, imported all of their equipment from Italy and they make the gelato fresh each day. "If you tried to put a pint of gelato in the freezer, it would start to break down after a little while," Reitano says. Italians, she says, ofter take a daily walk for gelato, since it can't be stored at home. That's a tradition that could easily catch on in Philadelphia, too.

- Andrew Soll