Don’t just read Love & Gelato…Experience it.
I read Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch when I was stuck inside thinking about travel. What better place to visit in my head than Italy, the land of my ancestors. Okay, so I have to admit that I’ve never been to Italy, but luckily when I’m curled up reading Love & Gelato, it’s easy to forget that’s the case.
Put simply this book tells the story of Lina, who wants life to go on as normal despite losing her mom, but to fulfill the last request of her mother she heads to Italy to live with Howard, who was her mom’s friend when she lived in Italy before Lina’s birth. So Lina spends the summer visiting the places her mother used to frequent, while she figures out what she wants to do with her life, and maybe she meets some cute boys along the way who don’t mind playing the part of tour guide.
If I were completely devoted to experiencing this book and had an open schedule, as well as endless funds, I’d be at the airport right now buying a first class ticket so I could personally walk the streets of Florence, Italy and follow Lina’s path of self discovery. Alas, my schedule is far from open, and my funds have yet to ever be described as endless, so I did my best with the resources at hand.
Here is my experience with gelato. There was an Italian Restaurant briefly in my home town that carried this deliciousness. My all time favorite flavor was mascarpone, which I felt tasted similar to eating cheesecake batter. It was smooth, soft and oh so creamy. I tried the flavor for the first time when a group of my friends and I signed up to be a part of a cultural fair. We picked to represent Italy and made homemade biscotti, but we also bought gelato to share. I’m pretty certain I ate all of this flavor that was left at the end of the night. Every time I went to the restaurant afterwards, mascarpone was my go to choice. And then the restaurants closed, the gelato went away with it, and the tears fell. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. I’ve really only cried over food one time, and it wasn’t at this point in my life. Maybe if you stick to reading my blog long enough, you’ll get to hear that embarrassing story.
Anyway, back to gelato. Here’s what Lina has to say about it Love & Gelato.
“So . . . Italian gelato. Take the deliciousness of a regular ice-cream cone, times it by a million, then sprinkle it with crushed-up unicorn horns. Ren stopped me after my fourth scoop. I probably would have kept going forever.”
I know what you’re thinking- forever? Also a bit dramatic, but I can relate. I mean if it’s as good as I remember in Missouri, it has to be even better in Italy, so I won’t judge! Lina’s favorite flavor is stracciatella, which is most similar to a chocolate chip ice cream, but the pieces of chocolate are finer than our American chips. She also enjoys bacio- chocolate with hazelnuts- which was her mom’s favorite.
My first stop on my journey to gelato rediscovery was my local Schnucks grocery store. I couldn’t find a bacio flavored container- much to my dismay- so I settled for a container of Double Chocolate from Culinaria, which is imported from Italy. I also grabbed a container of Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip from talenti, which came from New Jersey. Two containers? You ask. Is that really necessary? You ask. What can I say? I’m dedicated. You’re welcome.
One thing to keep in mind when you buy gelato, it may need to sit on your counter for a specific amount of time before you eat it, so plan ahead. There is nothing worse than staring at a delicious dessert when you are ready to dig into it with your spoon now. I tried the Double Chocolate first. It was R-I-C-H rich. It didn’t take much to fulfill my chocolate craving. There was the chocolate base with swirls of a darker chocolate, and shavings of chocolate pieces as well. This is for someone who is serious about chocolate.
Next I tried the Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip. This one has a nice balance of chocolate to fruit flavor. It wasn’t overly sweet and it was definitely creamy. For me this one hit the spot. However, neither of them compared to my mascarpone memory, so I had to try to find a gelato shop I could realistically visit.
Enter Gelato Di Riso. I visited the Kirkwood, Missouri location. On their website they have an extensive list of possible flavors, and I was oh so excited to see mascarpone listed. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards for me on the evening I visited, because the flavors vary day to day, so there’s an element of surprise. I was able to try two varieties- hazelnut and pumpkin. Each one was smooth and creamy. The hazelnut had a light fresh flavor, the pumpkin more bold, but I enjoyed both. I even got to sneak a bite of forest fruits from my husband’s cup, and that was also delicious. I can’t wait to go back to try more, in honor of Lina, of course.
After reading it was absolutely no surprise to find that Welch went to school in Italy. I like knowing that the little observations she made about the places Lina travels throughout her journey were likely inspired by her real experiences. When I read that a school friend of hers lived in a cemetery just like Lina, that was another tidbit that just goes to show how the people from our past shape our stories. Whoa there- a cemetery? You ask. Tell me more! Well, sorry, I can’t do everything for you here. Go read for yourself and find out!
There you have it. If you have the money and time for travel, book that trip. But if you’re like me and that’s not exactly reasonable, head to the market or a little shop and get all the gelato you can and experience one of the two things that keep people in Italy for the long haul.
If you haven’t already read Love & Gelato, what are you waiting for? If you already have, why not pick it up again? Either way, take my advice when you do- don’t just read it, experience it!