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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Mellor

The Gelato Cone: Best and Worst Kinds

A good gelato experience starts with the cone

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This short post will only be of use to those who eat gelato with a cone, and it's hands-down the best way to enjoy gelato. Unless it's the height of summer, middle of the day, and the only place to eat is in the sun. Then, maybe, it's a good idea to go with the cup unless you like holding a cone in one hand and the gelato with the other.

Ice cream in cones in a cone holder.

What types of gelato cones are there?

There are no special "gelato cones". If you've had ice cream in a cone, you've pretty much had the same experience.

But Italians are a bit crazy about their gelato. It has to use the right ingredients, the proper ratios, not too much air, and in season. The rules don't just extend to the gelato, though. Italians can also be particular about the cone.

Cake Cone

This might start a fight, but cake cones—the cones that seem to be made of cardboard, sugar, and air—are pure garbage. Honestly, it's a shame when I go to a gelateria that I've been excited about trying only to find out they use cake cones as their standard cone. It's a culinary slap in the face, a confectionery disgrace.

Okay, I realize the language is strong for a website about Italy, but it's the equivalent of spending two days smoking a brisket (or however long brisket takes to smoke, I have no idea) only to put it on generic-brand hamburger buns. No. You put it on house-made brioche, or nothing at all.

Gelato is the same way. When it's made with high-quality ingredients, you don't serve it on end-of-the-summer grocery store sale cones found on a display next to Breyer's. Even kids don't deserve that.

For an actual reason, cake cones don't stay dry for very long. When it's the middle of the summer and the gelato starts melting as soon as it hits the cone, you need a cone with substance. Something with a little oomph. A cake cone will leave you with soggy cone, and it will ruin the last few bites of gelato. And while this is an an over-the-top and dramatic way to talk about gelato cones, the cone is the carrier for the gelato. Salsa and chips, spaghetti and sauce, meat and buns, if you're spending time and effort on flavors, then the carrier needs to impress.

And when it comes to a cake cone, there's genuinely no point in using one unless there are no other options.

Sugar Cone

A good sugar cone will be closer to a baby waffle cone that anything else. The cone itself should be dense, crispy, and toasted-tasting.

The ideal sugar cone will also make a nice seal for the gelato, able to handle any dripping without a problem.

Some gelateria, like Come il Latte and La Romana in Rome will even fill the bottom of the cone with chocolate sauce. And a true test of the cone is whether or not the cone will be soggy five minutes later when you're getting close to finishing it.

Some sugar cones will be flavored slightly, either with cinnamon or essence of orange flowers, a popular flavor in Italian pastries. However, this is rare, and most shops will offer them unflavored.

Waffle Cone

I was never allowed a waffle cone growing up, and now that I'm grown up, I'm not paying $7 for a waffle cone. No wonder my parents never let me have one.

In Italy, I will rarely splurge and get a waffle cone—not splurge on money, but on sugar.

Most gelaterie will offer a sugar cone for 2 and 3 flavors. But if you want 4 flavors, they'll whip out the waffle cone.

And in all honesty, I have mixed feelings on the waffle cone.

The asymmetry, while aesthetically pleasant, also allows gelato to more easily drip and melt out of the cone. That's right, we went deep on this cone. You thought this was some silly "5 Best Cones for Gelato Round-up"? Not at all!

Are all cones made in house?

Not necessarily. Because it's Italy, there are a fair number of companies that make high-quality cones that are usually easier for gelaterie, especially small ones, to purchase from. This doesn't mean the gelateria is a low-quality establishment, or they're looking to cut corners.

And the truth be told, while I always enjoy a house-made cone—especially one that's just been baked and is still a little warm and chewy—it isn't make-or-break for me. That's still on the shoulders of the gelato.


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