Gelato is just the Italian word for ice cream, right?

Anyone who has ever visited Italy probably can say they've experienced this wonderful cold treat. After a recent visit to Paolo's gelato shop on John Street, one cup immediately brought back a taste of Italy.

However, as good as gelato may be, I will never get tired of traditional ice cream in the U.S. I cannot resist a heaping scoop over a hot peach cobbler or the most tasteful, seasonal flavors churned in a homemade ice-cream maker on a warm summer night. So if you're like me, you may have wondered, what makes gelato and ice cream so different from one another? Well, the answer is quite simple.

Premium ice creams are made from fresh cream (not condensed or powdered milk), real eggs and natural flavorings. These are thicker ice creams with a small amount of air added in the churning process. Many "lesser ice creams" incorporate a much larger amount of air. More air results in softer ice cream that scoops more easily and melts more quickly.

Gelato, on the other hand, has no air added at all. Gelato recipes usually include more egg yolks, more milk and less cream. It has slightly less fat than regular ice cream due to its greater proportion of whole milk to cream. Since there's not as much fat in the gelato, it doesn't coat the mouth in the same way as ice cream does, resulting in more intense flavors. It also is churned at a slower speed than ice cream, so it makes for a dense, rich, creamy treat.

While ice cream is typically served frozen, gelato can be stored and served at a slightly warmer temperature so it's not completely frozen.