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The best coffee and gelato in all of Rome?

Of all the things I expected to learn on my trip, learning where to get the best coffee and gelato in Rome never entered my plans. But there I was in Rome with an expert local guide (Vanessa Barg of Gnosis Chocolate) and that is exactly what I discovered. The New York Times recently also bestowed the best coffee on this place - saying that it might just be the most expensive in the world - when you add in the cost of the flight - and it would be worth it.

Near the Pantheon on the Piazza Sant'Eustachio is il Caffe Sant'Eustachio. There you will find what many believe to be the best coffee (espresso) in all of Rome. What makes it so? First - you are in Rome. Second is the presentation. Third is the price (only 1 Euro - about $1.50). Finally there is the coffee itself - deep, rich, and fragrant without being bitter with a crema that has to be experienced to be believed. Light and airy and a lot of it. They "regular" way of serving is with sugar and that is how I recommend you take yours first. Later you may try without sugar, but first try it the way they recommend you drink it.

The other important thing to know about ordering coffee at Sant'Eustachio (and, in fact, ordering just about any food or beverage in any location other than a sit-down restaurant) is that you queue up to pay first, and then present your receipt at the counter where they will make up your order.

The entrance signs for Sant'Eustachio lighted at night

The presentation of the coffee at Sant'Eustachio

Now because I was with a local guide whose family frequented the place regularly, I was invited to have one of those wonderful experiences that make any trip extra special. We were invited into the back to see the roaster - a wood-fired roaster. No roasting was going on that day but we got to see the roaster and some of the beans up close.

Two shots of the wood-fired roaster at Sant'Eustachio

View Google Map for location of Sant'Eustachio

This is the obligatory tourist shot of me in front of the Pantheon

It turns out that the best gelato in Rome is also not far from the Pantheon. Now, while I can tell you how to get from the Pantheon to il caffe Sant Eustachio, I can't tell you how to get to Giolitti. It is very close to the Pantheon and if we were to meet out front I would be able to guide you there. (Anyone who is interested in having me personally escort them in Rome for this culinary adventure - contact me privately.)

What makes Giolitti so special? Everything, actually. Not just the gelatao - which is phenomenal. The shop itself is inviting and warm, the selection of flavors tremendous, the price is affordable, and did I mention the creme chantilly? Wow. You can select from several sizes of cones and cups and to eat in or take out. All but the smallest cone allows you to select two or more different flavors. This is the hardest part of going to Giolitti - selecting flavors. The best approach seems to be themed - there are several different nut flavors (including gianduja/hazelnut, noccio/walnut), several different chocolates, at least two different coffees, and dozens of fruits. I chose gianduja, dark chocolate fondente, and espresso. This was topped with a dense yet ethereally light cloud of whipped cream unlike any other I have ever tasted. The only disappointment was the cone itself. I had the medium size (three flavors) and the cone was pedestrian and covered in a chocolate-like substance that was almost certainly a compound coating. Don't eat the medium cone dipped in "chocolate." The small cone was very good, however.

The gelato selection at Giolitti

From a dining perspective I can also recommend the restaurant Giogetto in the old Jewish quarter of Rome, just next to the Tiber river. One of the specialties of Giogetto is artichokes, and our dinner included stuffed squash blossoms (with fresh mozzarella and anchovy), a whole artichoke deep fried, and pasta with - you guessed it, artichokes in an olive oil and garlic sauce. A little salad and a bottle of the house red. Heaven.

My dinner setting at Giogetto - artichoke, squash blossom, plate, and wine glass

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Comment by Chloe Moreno on September 22, 2010 at 11:05pm
Hi Clay!! I loved your blog post "The best coffee and gelato in all of Rome". Sounds like you had a blast!!!! I lived in Germany for a while-back in 1995/1996, and I used to have gelato & cappuccino & croissants almost everyday LOL!! I went to Italy twice-and didn't have gelato there!!! Which is crazy!!!!! I went to Venice, Vicenza & Milan....I remember--having pizza & coffee & Fritte-but no gelato or chocolate!!! I went vegan about 1 year hubby did too, so when we go to Italy-we're gonna have to find "vegan" gelato & coffee with vegan cream LOL!!!
Comment by Sherry Smith-Noble on January 2, 2010 at 12:08pm
The very best gelato I ever had was from a shop on the street in back of the Vatican -- across the square from St. Peter's. It was so memorable that nothing else could compare.
Comment by Matt Caputo on December 15, 2009 at 1:33am
Crazy, I just had a salesman in my retail store (Tony Caputo's) twice last week telling me how Sant Eustachio is the best coffee in Rome and trying to get me to buy it from him. Of course all salesmen say shit like that and he did not strike me as particularly credible given how he pronounced the name wrong. So of course, I took it with more than a grain of salt. Also, I wanted to smack him in the face for trying to call on me unannounced twice this close to Christmas.

Then while I was searching The Chocolate Life for another discussion I came across this post. I clicked on it just to call the salesman's bluff thinking clay would name something else. To my surprise it was actually Clay's favorite. Kismet. I guess I should stop being such a snob and call that salesman back.
Comment by Gianni Peretti on November 17, 2009 at 4:57pm
I'm sorry I wasn't able to give you in advance some more address about gelato etc. Next time before you'll leave to Italy again I'll try to inform you.
Comment by SU on October 28, 2009 at 4:50pm
Drat! I wish I had this before we went! We just got back from Italy last week and our favorite gelato was found in the town of Corniglia, of Cinque Terre fame. The honey gelato was so good I had to buy a jar of honey to bring home. My husband thought I was insane, but just wait'll I crack it open.
Comment by Duffy Sheardown on October 27, 2009 at 10:20am
I spent a week in Italy and never found an ice-cream - what a waste. I was too bemused whilst in Perugia and the little town near where we were staying had pretty much closed up for the winter. I shall have to make a special trip!

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