Ice Cream vs. Gelato

On Monday, I asked my email subscribers for a topic, situation, or scenario that I could dive into for the week. I wanted to try something different. A game of sorts. A challenge to explore something for a week and then post about it by Friday.

A response I received (thanks Heather!) said this:

Ice cream vs gelato.


So I was off to figure out what the differences are.

Starting the dive

I quickly found an article about the differences. It helped get a quick orientation, but I’m not sure how accurate the descriptions are.

Next, an article in Forbes about an unlikely location for the best Gelato in the United States. I was intrigued, though. And quickly decided I would try to interview the Morgan Morano of Morano Gelato.

Blue Bell

I also wanted to try to talk with someone from Blue Bell Ice Cream. So I did. Listen below to the full conversation that I had with Kaysie Noska.

Some interesting things about Blue Bell Ice Cream:

  • If it has bananas, they were hand-peeled
  • Although they don’t have their own cows, they purchase from co-ops.
  • The Brenham location daily uses the milk from 60,000 cows
  • Homemade vanilla is the #1 flavor
  • They’re constantly trying new flavors and taking input from consumers
  • So far, they’ve stayed away from social media

When I checked my freezer, guess what I found?


Morano Gelato

I then spoke with Morgan Morano.

After studying history and anthropology in college, she went into culinary school and eventually she moved to Florence, Italy.

There she stumbled across a Sicilian gelato shop. She was intrigued. This led to being mentored by the chef of that shop, Antonio Cafarelli. She wanted to learn how to make gelato. He wanted to learn how to make American cheesecake. One of their collaborations was a peanut butter gelato.

She found that when it comes to the best gelato:

There’s a craft, an art, a tradition. No one in America was making gelato the true way.

Later, in Hanover, NH she started offering her Gelato at the local farmers market.

The first day people tried it. And then they were sold.

She had come up with her own technique, combining her experience making ice cream as a pastry chef with the tradition that she learned in Florence.

Image courtesy of Morano Gelato

The hardest parts of launching the business were convincing people how good it is (although not really a problem once they tried it!) and securing a bank loan.

Her business quickly grew into its own store location, and is now in the process of expanding to other locations and outlets. Still, she wants to keep the small community ethic as it expands.

Fun Facts about Gelato:

  • Sicilian gelato is primarily water based with some milk
  • It’s lower in butter fat than American Ice cream. This helps you perceive the flavor more (because butter fat coats the tongue).
  • All the flavors are derived from a single base
  • It’s a digestive

Morgan’s Case for Gelato

Although I prefer Gelato, I love American Ice Cream as well.

Gelato is generally healthier than most ice cream: lower butter fat, generally made with fresh, healthier products, no artificial flavorings. No paste or fillers.

 Penny Lick Ice Cream

In talking with Morgan, I was reminded of something that I heard from Seth Godin. He had made reference to someone selling Ice Cream at a local farmers market. I thought it could be a lead. I found out that it was Penny Lick Ice Cream.

Ellen Sledge agreed to an interview. You can check it out here:

Ellen also started at a farmers market, with a single cart and one machine. She’s using only the freshest ingredients. Word quickly spread and the operation grew. Penny Lick is now in 6 farmers markets, a restaurant, and they have been catering ice cream to various events – most recently, weddings.

People think it’s very unique, but it’s very old fashioned. A bicycle wheel push cart selling ice cream – that’s a 150 year old notion.

Custard ice cream well pre-dates what’s in our stores now. I’m just bringing it back.

First Ellen went over some of the differences in making custard ice cream, hard american ice cream, and gelato.

One thing that stood out is the speed at which they run their machines spin the ice cream.

  • Gelato is typically 130 RPM
  • Her custard ice cream is at 115 RPM
  • American hard ice cream is closer to 234 RPM

This difference affects how hard the ice cream becomes. The higher speeds result in more air being whipped into the ice cream and then it also becomes harder.

Ellen’s case for ice cream

I find gelato to be very thin. It’s just not that interesting to me.

The idea of making a custard base, chilling it overnight, and having all of those ingredients form what is custard ice cream – so much more interesting!

(Just don’t read the calories or the calories from fat part on the nutrition label.)

On being in business

We talked about what it was like starting her company in 2013. One thing she learned is that:

Farmers markets are a really great incubator for small businesses.

You can find out quickly if your idea passes the “does it work” test. She found that the farmers market community is very collaborative. Also, it’s never difficult going to work. It’s always a joy.


The hardest parts of starting the business were:

  1. Putting yourself out there, because it’s creative and personal to you.
  2. Constantly pushing yourself to do the next hard step.

This reminded me of the excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man In the Arena” speech:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I asked Ellen, what gave her the push to actually pursue the business. She spoke of the dreams that pretty much everyone in culinary school has of pursuing their own venture. At one point she realized that she was taking great care in being a mother of three kids, but that she was losing herself in that process. She needed a creative outlet and felt that having that would also make her a better mother. And then she decided to go for it.

Her mantra has become,

If it fails, if I fail at this… I can say I did it. I can say I tried.

The Real Challenge

I think the bigger question isn’t ice cream vs. gelato.

What I’m taking with me is questions like this:

  • How am I approaching my work, my craft? Do I care as much about the quality and approach as I could?
  • Is there someone I could learn from?
  • Am I pushing into the next hard thing that might feel so uncomfortable, but is clearly (or foggily) the next step?

If you have an idea that you’ve been carrying for a while and you haven’t been able to get started, I’d encourage you to listen to the interview with Ellen. But then also try to figure out just what the one next hard step is. And decide if trying in spite of the possibility of failure is worth it. Then go for it!

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