Italy has been on my mind a lot this week, for reasons more saddening than anything else. Two friends passed away; one only beginning his adult life, the other guiding young adults like me to become good people like her. I had begun writing this post about Allegro before the news arrived, and I actually think it’s fitting that I finish it sooner rather than later. Gelato is, after all, an Italian dessert with which I associate many happy memories, some of which I shared with those who are no longer with us. I’m going to ride that wave….

When I studied abroad in Orvieto from September to December of 2007, my friends and I all frequented Gelateria Pasqualetti almost every day. Two gelaterie were available to us, both on the way to or near school: one was across from the clock tower, the other next to the duomo. Despite cooling weather as fall arrived in Umbria, we rarely missed our daily dose of gelato. This was good gelato, too. The texture was just the right level of creaminess, and although the flavors themselves weren’t necessarily crazy or creative, they were consistently perfect-tasting. We felt pretty okay about the fact that we were eating it like mad because gelato is arguably less fattening than American ice cream. 
Gelato from a place in Rome with some friends in 2007. Pretty good, but no Pasqualetti.
Cold and tasty snacks have been around for centuries, and many cultures probably cooled off with treats using mountain snow and some sort of flavoring from fruit or even flowers. Italian gelato as we know it, though, was developed in Florence by Bernardo Buontalenti in the 16thcentury, who served it in the Medici court. Gelato traveled with Caterina dei Medici to France, where they were blown away. That says a lot, if the French palates condoned it. Another big player in the gelato game was Procopio Coltelli, a Sicilian who opened one of the first cafes that served his delectable gelato in the 1660’s. His cafe later went on to become a favorite haunt of many Paris literati.

But what the heck is the difference between ice cream and gelato? A very valid question, indeed! Nutritionally, gelato is made with less fat and sugar, so a 3.5 oz serving of gelato has less fat (10% vs. 21%), less sugar (24% vs. 30%) and even fewer calories (230 vs. 325). And those are on the higher end. Sorbet is even more healthful, with 0% fat! Better taste, less guilt! Plus, it’s perfect for those hot summer days in Tucson where all you want to do is go to the movie theatre where they blast the AC so much that you need a sweater. 

Allegro: Il Gelato Naturale. The interior is modern and chic, with neato gelato spinners that are fancy and futuristic. 

Where does one procure such a delectable delight in Tucson? I’ll tell you! Allegro!

Allegro was opened only a couple years ago by Ivan Lucchina (co-owner and Master Gelatiere–yes, you even have to go to special gelato university to get certified!) and Marco Rapella. 

Here are Five Reasons why Allegro Gelato rocks

  1. Ingredients. Allegro gelato is only ever made from the freshest ingredients possible. Period. They don’t compromise in terms of quality on that one; they squeeze and chop and mince and whatever in the gelateria kitchen, rather than using powders or mixes. That may mean that your mint gelato is not green. But guess what–that’s because when mint is actually pressed, it’s not green! A lot of ice cream shops and gelaterie use dyes to make their products “look” the way people expect them to. Allegro doesn’t, and it tastes better for it!
  2. Creative flavors. There is a certain canon, so to speak, of gelato flavors. A traditional gelato shop almost always has flavors like straciatella (kind of like chocolate chip), nocciola (hazelnut), caffe (coffee), and seasonal fruit sorbets. But Ivan gets creative! Another favorite on their menu is saffron (IT IS AMAZING), and the Allegro flavor has a nougat-y/almond-y/tasty combo. Depending on what they feel like doing behind the scenes, there can be anything from lavender to basil & pineapple to balsamic avocado behind the glass. You read it right: BALSAMIC AVOCADO. Whoa! 
  3. Variety. You don’t just have to get gelato. Unlike many gelaterie, where you’re relegated to the standard array of tastes, at Allegro you also can get granite (slush drinks, originally from Sicily), coffee, or blend together your favorite gelato with some milk for a satisfying frappe. 
  4. Enthusiastic customer service. Whether Ivan himself is working the counter or one of the many employees they’ve had to hire in more recent months to keep up with business, you’ll always find that the person helping you seems genuinely excited about what they’re selling.
  5. Old World, traditionally crafted quality. The art of gelato making is just that: an art. Although most gelatieri take pride in their medium, with modern techniques come the temptation to expedite the age-old ways of making gelato. Allegro uses the traditional recipes and it shows in the authentic taste. Trust me on this, I’ve eaten approximately a jillion gelati. Maybe not that many, but I would confidently say I have high standards for gelato, having indulged in quite a lot of it. Not all the gelato I’ve eaten has been good, even in Italy, so to find a place like Allegro which just happened to be close to my house has been thrilling. Let’s just say I’m a big fan of their punch card rewards…
Yes, there are a few other places to get gelato in Tucson. I contend, though, that Allegro is the best, with the best prices, the best flavors, and the most authentic gelato experience. So now that we’re starting our regular triple digit temperatures, go cool down at Allegro! 
Yeah, so I was going to take a photo of this strawberry rhubarb…but I ate it.
If you go:
Open true Italian hours, Sunday-Thursday from 11:30-10:30 p.m.
Friday & Saturday, 11:30-11:30.

446 N. Campbell Ave #120, Tucson, AZ 85719

Have you been to Allegro? What’s your favorite flavor?