Here’s The Scoop

“What can I get for you?”

“Oh. Well. Um. That one.”

“This one?”

“No, to the left.”

“Sorry. Which?

“The one I can’t pronounce! Right there! In the middle!”

“Ah! The Stracciatella.”

“Yes. Sure.”

I never knew ordering a much-craved late night dessert could be so traumatic. It’s one thing to be in sweatpants and flip-flops ordering ice cream at 9 pm on a Saturday night. It’s another to walk into a colorful sweets shop and become perplexed by the odd ice cream names, all while fearing that the cashier, who apparently knows Italian, is judging you for wearing what you will most likely be sleeping in. It all results in a very embarrassed customer with a funny little cup of god-knows-what from Here’s The Scoop Gelateria on Coast Village Road.

Now, what really is the difference between gelato and some good old Dreyers ice cream? Surprisingly enough, the major difference is not cream, sugar, or any ingredient listed. It’s air. Most ice creams are made with a ton of air whipped into them; even up to half the carton. It’s called “overrun.” Overrun is usually a characteristic of a cheaper ice cream. It also accounts for the price disparity between different brands in the grocery store. The less overrun, the higher the price. The more air in the ice cream, the easier it is to scoop and the faster it melts.

Gelato, on the other hand, is made with no air at all, other than the minimum amount possible involved in the churning. This makes for a creamier, extremely dense dessert. But don’t be fooled. Just because there is less air doesn’t mean it’s more fattening. Gelato is comprised of 3%-10% fat; ice cream contains about 16%-30%. This is a result of the amount of cream used. Higher-end ice-cream producers tend to use more cream while upscale gelaterias use higher-quality ingredients, along with milk, water, and soy. Delicious and secretly semi-healthy…no wonder gelato has become so popular.

But ,avoid an experience like mine! Here is how to navigate your way through this creamsicle-painted calorie fest. First, gauge your appetite. Remember the density factor. A little bit of gelato can go a long way. Then consider your flavors. Don’t be thwarted by the crazy names. Just learn the lingo. Cioccolato is chocolate. But you could have figured that one out on your own. Here are a couple toughies. Nocciola is hazelnut – no Cioccolato here. Fior di latte is the base flavor for many cream and chocolate flavors. It’s sweet and subtle. Translation “Flower of Milk.” Frutti di bosco or “Fruits of the Forest,” is going to be an assortment of berries one might find in a forest (blackberries, raspberries, etc). Fragola is strawberry. Stracciatella is the closest you are going to get to Chocolate Chip. However, this is a cream that has had chocolate drizzled on it prior to mixing, so instead of chips, the result is needle-like pieces.

The only thing missing now is the money factor. Yes, gelato is generally more expensive than ice cream. But what makes gelato worth the extra couple of bucks? Is it the spatula scooper, the tub instead of carton, or the way they put one of the ingredients on top of the ripples of creamy goodness to make it seem like you are really just eating a bowl of strawberries instead of a cup of Fragola?

Perhaps it is that instrument we all secretly love and maybe fear a little: the illustrious shovel spoon. Around the size of an average index finger, the gelato spoon is one of the neon perks you will undoubtedly not know whether to love or hate. It’s mini and skinny and prohibits large spoonfuls that fill your mouth and truly get the job done. These little items enforce what most Cosmos will tell you, “take smaller bites!” No wonder European women are so thin! But I can’t imagine the spoon compensating for the financial endeavor.

Gelato is more expensive because it is usually made on-site and with better ingredients. However, there is also a certain allure to this Italian treat. In a town filled with Tre Lune, Via Vai, Piatti, and Mollie’s Ristorante, what did we really expect? “When in Montecito, eh?” After the Bruschetta appetizer and the Pasta Frascati, who really wants some Cookie Dough Chocolate Chunk? Furthermore who wants the 15% extra fat?

Viva Italia. Keep the gelato coming.

(Here’s The Scoop, 1187 Coast Village Road (805-969-7020) is open seven days a week.)