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What is Gelato Anyway?

What is gelato anyway?

Put simply, gelato is Italian ice cream, containing the same ingredients as American ice cream, but in different proportions.

Gelato has roots that stretch back thousands of years. The earliest frozen desserts on record can be found in Asian cultures where crushed ice mixed with flavorings was a refreshing beverage, to the ancient Egyptian pharaohs offering a cup of ice flavored with fruit juices to their guests. Frozen desserts first came to Italy from a Roman tradition of eating ice gathered from the volcanoes of Etna and Vesuvius that was covered in mellifluous honey.

It was during the Italian Renaissance that gelato in its modern form was first created. In the 1500s, a wealthy family commissioned artist and architect Bernardo Buontalenti to create an elaborate feast for the visiting King of Spain. Not only was Buontalenti talented in the arts, but he also had quite a culinary prowess and crafted a creamy frozen dessert for the King that has since been known as gelato. The love for this indulgent treat spread quickly throughout Europe and became deeply entrenched in the fabric of everyday life in Italy.


So what exactly, you may ask, is the difference between gelato and ice cream?

There are 3 big differences between gelato and ice cream.

  1. The first is the lack of air incorporated into the mix. Ice cream is traditionally made up of 50% volume by air, while gelato ranges between 20%-35%.
  2. Gelato has a much lower percentage of butterfat than ice cream, coming in between 4-8% versus ice cream’s 14%. This seems paradoxical because gelato can taste so much creamier than ice cream yet has much less fat.
  3. Finally, the sugar content is closely monitored and balanced with water content and comes in slightly lower than ice cream. So in gelato, sugar serves both to sweeten and act as an anti-freeze. Here at Zingerman’s Creamery, we take pride in the ingredients we use for our handcrafted gelato. The same great Calder Dairy cows milk we use in our cheese forms the base for our gelato. We pasteurize it in small batches for our equally small-batch flavors.



  1. BETTER INGREDIENTS – We use fresh milk from Calder Dairy, organic Demerara brown sugar, and fresh, local produce!
  2. TRADITIONALLY CRAFTED – We make gelato with traditional Sicilian techniques and with authentic equipment we brought over from Bologna, Italy.
  3. FRESHLY MADE – We’re making made-to-order small batches right here in Ann Arbor. Zingerman’s Creamery Gelato will always be far fresher than the mass-produced product that is prepacked and shipped all over the country.


Our Featured Gelato Flavors