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Gelato Wars! Part One: The Best Gelato in Viterbo

peach gelato

The master strategist Sun Tzu once remarked that 'the greatest victory is that which requires no battle'. Obviously, he never tried to find the best gelato in Viterbo province because then he would know that here, gelato making is a full contact sport and that there can only be one winner. Ladies and gentlemen, be prepared to be taken on the ride of your lives as our intrepid team of tasters here at ViaMedina give you: 

GELATO WARS!! 

So here's how it'll work. Whenever we can, either Mark or myself will take a group of our nicest and most available friends to a town somewhere in the province of Viterbo and we will force feed them gelato until they make their proclamations of the best gelato in that town. Eventually and if I can get sponsored from the NCAA or FIFA I would like to employ a Final Four/Elimination type bracket system to narrow down the contenders in an easy to follow and cheerfully coloured format. By the end of the year we would like to be able to name the best gelato in Viterbo province based on the reviews of our tasters; when we are able to do so, the winner will probably not get anything in particular, but we'll tell them that they are the victor in the 2015 ViaMedina Gelato War which should give them great and profound joy. Also, we may make a sticker for them to put on their door. 

As we began planning this gelato survey we initially thought that we could hit four or five towns in a day but we realized that none of us had the time, patience, or stomach for that kind of trip. Instead, we figured that we would spend some time in each town or city and get a feel for the different types of gelato on offer. We started that fine Sunday afternoon in Viterbo, the capital of the province and home to a number of gelato shops, both old and new. 

Our team: 

-Nikki, whose skill at gelato tasting is rivalled only by her garden knowledge and chicken care (more on that later) and featured Sagra Sister. Her go to flavour when judging a gelateria is pistacchio. 

-Aurelia, gelato champion and Sagra sister known for her ability to eat great quantities of delicious food and still be able to go for a pizza afterwards (that actually happened). A hopeless lover of cats, she stayed within the fruit gelati realm as she believes this increases her palate strength. 

-Marie-Lise, mystic, healer and all around gastronome, she brought her refined senses to the Battle of Viterbo with characteristic aplomb. Her flavour was the classic cream, as its simplicity allows for no error. See that, I told you. 

-Yann, scientifically inclined, Yann made his first appearance on the ViaMedina team and brought his objective mind to the fore with this analytical prowess. However, he only lasted two rounds because he couldn't really eat more than that, which is just what happens when you don't hang out with us that often (seriously, I think I'm turning my friends into foie gras). He didn't have a flavour preference or well thought out strategy; this may have been his downfall. 

-Leila, tagging in at the end of the battle like a true hero, she rallied the troops behind her for the final push to victory, carrying their tired and very full stomachs on her unspoiled palate like a victorious Caesar marching into, wherever he marched into. Her participation was predicated on us trying salted peanut ice cream, so I guess its clear where her loyalty was. 

-El Bachtoula, a pseudonym for a friend who wished to remain nameless because obviously his participation in such a divisive project like Gelato Wars would bring major heat into his life. Like Leila, he stepped in at the tail end of the tasting and provided great moral support to the team. He also finished everyone's gelato when no one could eat anymore thus making him sort of an undecided when considering preferred flavours. 

Importantly, our judges will be rating their gelati with the entirely precise and not at all subjective cone scale, from 1 to five cones respectively. As our mission gains speed, I hope to employ a cone graphic to illustrate this highly important value. 

To the battlefield! 

First stop: L'Antica Latteria

Via della verita 25, Viterbo
Piazza del Caduti 8, Viterbo 
antica latteria

When we first reported that we'd be going to Viterbo most people told us that L'Antica Latteria was the quintessential gelateria and the clear favourite in town. However our reviewers had different feelings: 

Nikki (pistacchio):

-too fluffy, pistacchio looks too green 

-the pistacchio tastes better than it looks, but the aftertaste is pretty funky

Verdict: 2.5/5 cones

Fluffy gelato? Yep, its a thing. 

Fluffy gelato? Yep, its a thing. 

Aurelia (peach): 

-feels full of margarine

-contains only a bit of natural peach 

-mediocre

Verdict: 2/5 cones

Marie-Lise (cream): 

-not too sweet

-a bit fluffy

-missing eggs

-the cup is concave so that you actually get less than what you think 

Verdict: 2.5/5 cones

The cuo is concave so you don't get as much as you expect- in this case that seems to be not such a bad thing... 

The cuo is concave so you don't get as much as you expect- in this case that seems to be not such a bad thing... 

Yann (yogurt) 

-less sweet than he would have thought

-pleasantly tangy

-the cup is misleading

-there's an aftertaste that is not that pleasant  

Verdict: 3/5 cones

A tough job, indeed. Look how bright eyed they all looked! 

A tough job, indeed. Look how bright eyed they all looked! 

All told, the crew was probably disappointed with L'Antica Latteria as it seems to have lost some of the luster that made it the top pick in Viterbo. Though still a sentimental favourite, it fell short of our top spot. 

Final Score: 2.5/5 cones

 

Second Stop: Bar Chiodo

Via Roma 32, Viterbo 
Panna Montata, also known as cream when it was a child star and before it started twerking on live television. 

Panna Montata, also known as cream when it was a child star and before it started twerking on live television. 

Another sentimental favourite, Bar Chiodo was once a latteria as well as sold cheese, milk and gelato but has since evolved into a cafe in the heart of the city center. They still serve their gelato in only three flavours, with homemade whipped cream on top. The 'doppio panna' method involves beating the cream until it takes on stiff peaks and then beating it again with a wooden spoon (it must be a wooden spoon). Because they only have the choice of three flavours everyone had a mix of the flavours with whipped cream, which Daniela the owner whipped herself. 

daniela chiodo

So then, what did our judges think? 

Nikki: 

-tastes really natural but the texture is slightly icy

-no aftertaste

Verdict: 4/5 cones

Yann: 

-more flavour

-much better taste

-more satisfying

Verdict: 5/5 cones

gelato chiodo

Marie-Lise:

-the way that gelato should be 

Verdict: 5/5 cones

Aurelia: 

-very milky

-doesn't make me feel thirsty

-panna is great

-chocolate had a very milky flavour

Verdict: 4/5 cones

nikki happy

 

Nikki's face pretty much sums up how the gang felt about Chiodo's gelato. Even though the choices were more limited it certainly delivered on what it promised, and everyone was satisfied. Plus, Daniela was really kind and patient with us sitting around and having what must have sounded like the most poncey conversation in the universe about the structure and eternal nature of gelato. 

Final Score: 4.5/5 cones

 

Third Stop: Polozzi

piazza della Rocca 5, Viterbo
via Roma, Viterbo
polozzi

Polozzi began its life as a pastry shop and bakery in Piazza della Rocca in Viterbo, and there they served a few gelato flavours (much in the same way that Bar Chiodo still offers their gelato). However last year, Polozzi expanded their gelato selection to nothing short of prolific, into a really sweet looking shop on via Roma. 

And you guys, they have peanut butter gelato. 

Yes it's twee and nearly almost hipster but they have peanut butter. 

Yes it's twee and nearly almost hipster but they have peanut butter. 

At this point Yann had bowed out of the gelato war, feeling that his palate had been through all the combat it could handle for one day. We were down to three, and battle wounds were beginning to show. Faces were dragging, the heat getting the best of us. But still, we fought on. 

Nikki (peanut butter/pistacchio): 

-great consistency and flavour

-no aftertaste

-strong flavours

-peanut butter! 

Verdict: 5/5 cones

 

Aurelia (melon/strawberry): 

-no seasonal fruit is a bummer

-sweeter than expected

-felt thirsty afterwards

-less fruit than expected

Verdict: 3.5/5 cones

 

Marie Lise (cream/mint): 

-good consistency

-great flavour

-balanced

Verdict: 4/5 cones

polozzi

All in all, Polozzi is a really clean and friendly shop that delivers lots of flavours that are all natural and organic. They even have toppings and flavoured cones! This might however, be its only weakness: it seemed to both Nikki and me to be almost like an American ice cream parlor rather than a gelateria, which made it a little bit difficult to judge as the best gelato, per se. Having said that, I had to break the scientific barrier and try some of the peanut butter gelato, which was divine and soothed my every-once-in-a-while homesick heart. 

Final Score: 4/5 cones

Fourth Stop: Gran Caffe Schenardi

Corso Italia 11/13, Viterbo 

So guess what? Actually it's really difficult to eat this much gelato in the space of about an hour and a half. By the time we reached our last destination Marie-Lise had also bowed out of the challenge, her admirably hard fought battle of cream gelato being won for the day. Of course, Schenardi is sort of a sentimental mention because it's really old and really swanky looking. 

That's a chandelier, in a coffee shop. 

That's a chandelier, in a coffee shop. 

As if by some magic we received reinforcements in the form of Leila and El Bachtoula, and their stomachs and hearts were committed to the cause. 

Leila (peanut): 

-sweet/salty combo was really pleasant

-tastes even better when its melting

-it could even be eaten as a soup

-the crunchy peanuts are a little taste of heaven

Verdict: 4/5 cones

Aurelia (mixed berry/peach): 

-peach was best, really full of natural fruit, even tasted the skin of the peaches

-right amount of sugar

-mixed berry had a great taste but icy texture

Verdict: 4.5/5 cones

Leila is a true scholar

Leila is a true scholar

El Bachtoula (tastes of everyone's gelato as he finishes it for everyone else) 

-Mango (how did he even get Mango?): not very natural tasting 

-Mixed berry: more flavour and better texture

-Pistacchio: creamy

-Peanut: pretty delicious

Verdict: 3/5 cones

bachtoula

ikki (pistacchio/peanut, under great duress) 

-too sugary

-tasted of flour

-pistacchio didn't taste very natural

Verdict: 2.5/5

In Nikki's defense I don't think she could taste anything towards the end. 

In Nikki's defense I don't think she could taste anything towards the end. 

Schenardi is a really beautiful place to sit and have some treats, but all told the gelato fell short in some key areas. Our reinforcements made it possible for us to have a bit of objectivity but it didn't quite help bring this one to the top. But there is a chandelier. 

Final Score: 3/5 cones

crew

 

All things considered, it seems safe to say that Bar Chiodo was the critics choice for best overall gelato. While the flavours were limited the quality was excellent, and it was the most satisfying experience. Plus, it felt like it should be the best gelato, sort of tucked away and unassuming. Having said that, Polozzi was a real favourite as well and it felt like an indulgence that I'm happy to know is there. 

With that, the first battle in Gelato Wars is finished but we will reassemble and come back with even greater force. To quote Churchill directly: Stomachaches are not final, sugar comas are (hopefully) not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

Onward! 

 

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