ROME – By Maureen B. Fant

Romans used to argue about which of a dozen or so wonderful gelaterias was the best in town. But since 1993 the contest has been for second place. Anyone who does not acknowledge that Il Gelato di San Crispino is supreme has not tried it.
The founder-managers are from the Alto Adige region in the far north of Italy, and the establishment is simplicity and cleanliness itself, consisting only of a counter and a place to stand. Service is patient and by number.
The shop’s signature flavor, Il gelato di San Crispino, is a form of crema, the basic white Italian ice-cream, but with the brilliant addition of honey. The zabaglione looks like fresh egg yolks and tastes like a fine Marsala – both of which it contains.
The fruit flavors, which are almost as dense and velvety as the creams, taste like pure essence of fruit, only better, with no watery aftertaste. After a few bites of pear gelato, you wonder whether you’d ever really tasted a pear before. As for the pink grapefruit, imagine only the sweetness of the perfect fruit, with none of the bite.
Every flavor is made from scratch, and 15 to 20 are available at a time. You can choose by color – the nocciola (hazelnut) looks like vanilla; the pistachio looks like mud. Because cones are considered unhygienic, the ice cream is served in paper cups (price from about $ 1.40 to about $ 6) or packed for takeout in Styrofoam tubs.
San Crispino is in a residential neighborhood near the third-century Aurelian Wall, a leisurely stroll from the Colosseum area or the Basilica of San Giovanni. And in Rome it is more traditional to eat an ice cream walking than sitting at a table.

-12 May 1996 -