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  • A Review of Vivoli Il Gelato

    Get a taste of Italy right in Orlando, Fla.'s Walt Disney World
    Our Paesani

    By Francesca Di Meglio

    Pistachio and banana gelato was the perfect way to honor memories of Italy during a trip to Florida. © Photo by Francesca Di Meglio.
    When you take a lick of authentic gelato while strolling the streets in Italy, that creamy, smooth, sweet, and surprising goodness brings you to a whole other place. The good stuff is made by hand with local, natural ingredients. The range of flavors include coconut, banana, cantaloupe, hazelnut, and fior di latte. Some shops offer up something more exotic, such as riso (rice pudding).

    The Vivoli menu offers variety and varies from day to day. © Photo by Francesca Di Meglio.
    Regardless of the flavor, experiencing gelato brings you back to Italy every single time you take a bite. If you've never been to the Motherland, then a taste of real gelato can give you a sense of the culture as it relates to food. Everything – even naughty desserts – is made with fresh, simple ingredients. Everything – even naughty desserts – is created like art. There's a creativity and vision on the part of those in the Italian food industry (or even just in the Italian home kitchen) to which Americans and others can't always relate. That's why eating gelato is truly a revelation about Italy and its people.

    Walt Disney World is similarly uniquely American. Both gelato and all that is WDW bring people to a whole new world, one that unburdens them of responsibility and stress and provides comfort and a sense of home. You may think I'm exaggerating, especially about a simple cup of ice cream. But I say to you, that gelato is not ice cream. It's not. And you don't know what I'm talking about because you haven't had the real thing.

    The good news for you is that now you can eat real Italian gelato at Disney World in Florida. Vivoli Il Gelato, an 85-year-old gelataria in Florence, Italy, recently opened the doors to its second storefront in WDW's Disney Springs, which was formerly known as Downtown Disney. You can also sample the gelato, minus the storefront, in a Macy's in New York City.

    Back in Firenze, Vivoli Gelateria is the place to be. It's on practically every to-do list you see about touring the city. Raphael Vivoli and his two brothers founded the company as a dairy farm in 1932. After World War II, raw ingredients – milk, eggs, and sugar – along with the necessary technology (namely gelato machines and freezers) became more readily available, according to the Disney Parks Blog. Today, Silvana Vivoli, granddaughter to Raphael, runs the business and was a big part of the opening of the Florida shop. She learned the trade from her father Piero, Raphael's son. In her interview with Disney, she described a visit to Vivoli in the States as giving patrons the "feeling of being in Italy for 10 minutes."

    Indeed, that's what it was like for me. Of course, I visited the place with two native Italians – my husband and a friend of his. Both of them got in line in the shop and spoke Italian with one of the women behind the counter who was fluent. They were unapologetically flirtatious despite the fact they are both married and we wives were standing right there. So far, it was the typical Italian experience. The fact that the women behind the counter returned the favor made the encounter all the more Italian.

    Finally, we had our flavors in hand and could take a taste. It was magical. I long for gelato when I'm in the United States, and this definitely took off the edge. I opted for pistachio and banana, two of my favorites when I'm in the Boot. The tastes were as simple and delightful as in Italy. My husband was equally pleased with his choice of violetta (violet), and rosa (rose), and banana. And my sister, who had a grande cup of bacio (chocolate hazelnut), was initially disappointed that there was no nocciola (plain hazelnut) until she took a bite. The disappointment quickly faded. And my son said, "Yummy, yummy," when he dug into his piccolo cup of vanilla. I think that says it all about whether you should give the place a chance should you end up

    Vivoli offers up true Italian gelato. While the company uses local, seasonal ingredients (such as Florida grapefruit on my recent visit), it imports hazelnuts, pistachio, and cocoa powder from Italy. You will also find some basic Italian sandwiches, cookies, and pastries on the menu. Still, the main attraction is the gelato. You have your choice of 24 flavors, many of which you'll only find here. My husband ate violetta (replete with violets on top), for example. There are also milkshakes and floats with uniquely Italian spins.

    There's no question that visitors will pay high premium for the names Vivoli and Disney. The grande cup costs $7, the mediaum is $6, and the piccolo is $5. A cone is $6.75. It was worth it to me because I wanted to write this review, longed for gelato, and knew I'd only be in Disney for another day before returning home. There's no way I would be shelling out these big bucks on a regular basis (certainly, not on a writer's salary – LOL!). Still, it is soothing to have had real gelato that enabled me to pretend I was back in Italy on a sunny afternoon in February.

    You can follow Di Meglio's work at the Italian Mamma Web site or on Twitter @ItalianMamma10.

    Article Published 2/22/2016


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