Our family has a particular fondness for intensely chocolaty chocolate ice cream.  Our favorite chocolate ice cream is the decadent chocolate gelato the Cipriani Hotel makes, as opulent as the hotel itself.

Italian gelato is a bit different than American ice cream.  It is made with less sugar and is often made with milk rather than cream.  It has a more intense flavor.  Italians like their flavors to “pop”, melon tastes like melon, not melon and cream.

Ask any Italian and they will, of course, say that their neighborhood gelateria is the best.  They will also tell you that the concept of ice cream is Italian in origin.  Some believe that it was invented during the time of Emperor Nero.  It is undisputed that Italians had it long before the French.  It was Caterina de Medici who brought it to the French court and it was there that founding American father Thomas Jefferson had ice cream for the first time.  He then brought a recipe home with him and introduced the concept to the fledgling United States.

When we are in Venice, one of our favorite excursions is to take the Cipriani launch from San Marco Square to the luxurious and beautiful hotel.  As one pulls away from Venice proper and navigates through oncoming gondolas and cruise ships and approaches the hotel, it is as if one were ushered into another realm.  Arriving at the Cipriani is always full of pomp and circumstance.  A bell person assists you out of the launch and through the pergola-covered walkway that is the entrance to one of the most exquisite hotels in the world.  We like to eat our ice cream alongside the outdoor pool, one of the only pools in Venice and a perfect location to relax and enjoy an afternoon.  Of course, one has to transcend the shock of receiving the bill.  Eating ice cream at the Cipriani hotel is expensive.  However, one is never rushed at the Cipriani and you can nurse the feeling of decadence all afternoon.  Also the launch back has one of the best views of Venice.  It is the view on all of the postcards and tapestries, The Doge’s palace grows larger as you get closer to San Marco, and one can see on a pedestal the magnificent winged Lion that is the symbol of St. Mark and the Serrinessima, Venice herself.  It  almost makes the price of the ice cream seem reasonable.

If  Venice is not in your travel plans anytime soon, and  you can’t  partake of the amazing Cipriani experience, here is the recipe for the famous ice cream so you too can enjoy it at home.  This is actually a long guarded Cipriani secret.  Fortunately, my mother-in-law, Marcella Hazan, had asked the chef for the recipe many years ago.  It is a recipe that we teach to our students at our cooking school in Italy.  The secret is that into the dark chocolate mixture one drizzles very dark caramel.  The caramel enhances the flavor of the chocolate creating an incomparable combination.

The intense velvety texture of this gelato evokes reminiscences of Venice.   You will likely have no leftovers, only a lovely magical memory, much like a visit to Venice herself.

Chocolate Ice Cream

(Adapted from Marcella’s Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan)

4 egg yolks

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups milk

3 1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

1 1/2 ounces high quality unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Heat the milk until it just begins to boil.

2.  Use an electric mixer to whip the egg yolks and 2/3 cup of the sugar until they form creamy pale yellow ribbons.

3. Add the hot milk slowly to the whipped eggs and sugar while mixing with the electric mixer.

4.  Add the melted chocolate and mix it in well.  Add the cocoa and mix again.

5.  Put the remaining two tablespoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of water in a small pan over high heat.

6.  Transfer the chocolate mixture to a saucepan and place it over low heat and stir constantly with a whisk .  When the sugar in the pan has turned to a dark caramel, add the caramel to the chocolate mixture and mix it in thoroughly with the whisk until it dissolves.

7.  When the mixture has cooled completely, freeze in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions.