Rome's Gelato d'Essai Restaurant Is Redefining The Ice Cream Parlor

In general, Italian foods tend to fall into two categories: savory and sweet. Of the former, pastas like spaghetti carbonara and cacio e pepe are king, especially in Rome. According to MasterClass, they're two of the city's four hallmark pastas, which also include gricia and amatriciana. When it comes to savory foods, pizzas and meats like guanciale and pancetta also reign supreme.

On the sweeter side of things, however, one food trumps all the others — gelato. An essential Italian treat, gelato doesn't dare to share its spotlight. No trip to Italy comes without a cup or a cone, whether for dessert, a snack, or even a main meal. In fact, gelato is so ubiquitous, not to mention delicious, that it nearly surpasses the category of dessert. It warrants its own food group entirely.

Perhaps no place takes this sentiment as seriously as Gelato d'Essai. The Rome-based gelateria includes two gelato shops and a restaurant whose menu merges savory, dinner-worthy dishes with the sweetest of additions (per La Cucina Italiana). Per the Gelato d'Essai website, the Gelato Bistrò is a creative, first-of-its-kind eatery that combines dinner with ice cream — all on one plate.

Yes, you read that right. The restaurant serves upscale Italian dishes with gelato as an ingredient rather than a dessert.

This gelato restaurant serves plates as delicious as they are innovative

When in Rome, eat like a local, which, in the case of the Gelato Bistrò, means eating gelato for dinner.

Gelato d'Essai is the brainchild of gelato-maker Geppy Sfera, according to the restaurant's website. Italy Magazine reports that the restaurant is located in Rome's Centocelle neighborhood and serves regular dishes with various iterations of gelato that are scooped and plated right on top. These meals consist of everything from meat to fish to vegetables, each complemented by the accompanying sweet treat. Italy Magazine cited the restaurant's coconut gelato, which supplements chicken curry, and coffee gelato, which pairs well with sesame fish. Like most eateries in Italy, the Gelato Bistrò has a seasonal menu and changes its offerings depending on access to ingredients. "My desire to seek a confluence between gastronomy and gelateria transpires very well without distorting the nature of gelato whatsoever," Sfera told Tasting Table via email. Sfera wrote in Italian, which has since been translated.

Through his gelato restaurant, Sfera added, he marries gelato's unique qualities with dishes that, in turn, expose something new about the gelato itself. "So it's not a question of inventing and proposing new flavors of gelato, but of proposing a new way of enjoying it," wrote Sfera. "As I always like to repeat, gelato knows many things that we still have to learn."