Summer in Rome is hot.
Though it’s a dry rather than humid heat, exploring Rome’s epic museums, architecture, and parks anytime between June and August can test anyone’s heat tolerance. A pleasant way to roam Rome on a warm sunny day is to take a break at a nearby gelateria for one of the delights Italy is famous for…it’s gelato. You won’t have any problem finding one. Churches and gelaterie…no matter where you find yourself in Italy one of these two is just a stone’s throw away. One gelateria is well worth the stop for its uniqueness.
Grezzo Raw Chocolate is a “revolutionary” gelateria and pasticceria in Rome’s Monti neighborhood, a short walk to via Urbana from the Cavour metro stop. Using the word “revolutionary” might at first seem like an exaggeration, but Grezzo aims to re-educate the general public about gelato. It is a small but bustling gelateria with an open kitchen, full of satisfied return customers, both regulars who are locals and well-informed expats. On the wall of the gelateria it reads: “Our mission is to raise the quality of life on this planet through dessert and food consciousness. We believe that you deserve the best service, the best ingredients, the best sensations when you are here, at Grezzo.” Founded just a few years ago by its master chef from Taranto in Puglia, Grezzo hopes to “re-educate the public about gelato.”
It’s almost superfluous, but to begin with the basics, gelato and ice cream are two very different products. Traditionally gelato is made with milk, contains less air than ice cream, and is served at a warmer temperature, all things that make it denser and more flavorful. Grezzo’s gelato breaks with this tradition by offering a product that is free of dairy and refined sugar and contains five core elements in all of its gelati:
- coconut sugar
- cocoa butter , and in the case of chocolate-based flavors
- cocoa beans
- cocoa pods
One wanders into Grezzo for a refreshing gelato and leaves with a new perspective on desserts in general. What makes this place different? All of their gelato is made with non-milk products; they use fresh almond milk instead. Instead of refined sugar they use coconut sugar. Cashews are used to create a creamy texture. In fact their award winning nocciola (hazelnut) gelato actually does have one of the creamiest and most intense flavors ever. Their cioccolato has a subtler taste than the usual chocolate gelati or ice cream and the pistacchio has an earthy taste. The mango and the passion fruit gelati are made without added coloring and therefore are not the fluorescent orange hues we have become accustomed to, but rather a beige color that belies its authentic taste. Tasting Grezzo’s gelati and other delights is a pleasure for the palate and a “healthy evolution of dessert.” Grezzo is proof that eating desserts that are 100% veg and bio doesn’t have to mean sacrificing richness and taste.
Grezzo’s vegan gelato
But what is the concept? What does Grezzo mean? In Italian, a person described as grezzo or grezza is rough, uncouth, and even vulgar. But in the context of this unique gelateria it means raw, unadulterated, or nude: a clever reference to what is known in Italy as the crudista culinary movement, or the raw food diet. This is both a concept and a style of preparing and presenting food that is based on simplicity.
Nothing is cooked so that the nutritional benefit of ingredients is preserved.
Techniques such as fermenting, marinating, drying and others take the place of heat-based preparation. Crudismo (Raw food) is a big trend in Hollywood as well as in North America and Europe in general. Italy can surprise you with its trendy food offer, but it rarely disappoints. Grezzo is proof of this.
To erase any doubts about the sumptuousness of Grezzo’s vegan gelato, the second time we went we brought along two children, both under the age of 10. While it’s true, we all become children again as we choose our gelato flavor combination, enjoying our cone or cup in a sort of food trance, children are the real judges of what is authentically yummy gelato versus a mere healthy substitute. Grezzo got a standing ovation from these two kids! They weren’t interested in the gelato’s lack of chemical additives or the high antioxidant levels of the ingredients. Instead, they finished off their cones quickly, mumbling through chocolate covered lips: “Delicious! Can we have more?” As they say, out of the mouths of babies…