The sign said, “arancia cioccolato” (chocolate orange), but the gelato underneath had a turquoise tint. “It’s probably MINT chocolate orange. Or Pistachio,” everyone kept saying. I looked back to the description.

Firenze Gelato Festival

“Alga spirulina.” Wait a minute. Alga has to be Italian for “algae,” so the flavor is…SEAWEED?

Yeah.

And Francesco Dioletta, master gelato-maker from Gelateria Duomo in L’Aquila, is just back there smiling away at everyone – like he’s about to get us all really good.

Firenze Gelato Festival
Francesco Dioletta and his Alga Spirulina Gelato

And I can’t understand if it’s bad-good, like, “Ha! Ha! Haaa! I can’t believe you actually tried that!” or good-good, like, “See? You can trust me! I’m a master.”

So I look up Algae Spirulina on my phone. It’s a superfood rich in protein, too many vitamins to list here, amino acids, antioxidants, and studies claim it basically has super powers like fighting cancer cells and slowing aging.

If people pay $3 an ounce for this stuff, and the flavor made it all the way to the Firenze Gelato Festival – it can’t be that bad. And if it is, well then, I can add it to the growing list of weird stuff I’ve tried in Italy to showboat about in exaggerated stories to my friends! Cow stomach sandwich, tongue with green sauce, fried brains, AND seaweed gelato. Perfect.

I order my tasting cup and look it over for visible algae fronds (’cause those would earn some serious bragging rights). But it just looks like regular gelato. Meh. The first bite goes in and these words come out:

Firenze Gelato Festival
Imagined vs. Actual Spirulina Algae Flavored Gelato

WHAT is this??? Why does it taste like this!?”

The ambrosial hints of chocolate and orange were there but I got knocked out by the texture. I couldn’t describe it. All I could say was, “I’ve never had anything like this,” and scrape at the bottom of the cup when it was gone.Alga Spirulina Firenze Gelato Festival

Back home after the sensory delirium had passed, my good friend, Thesaurus, helped me craft a coherent explanation: it’s not milky or granular like standard cream or fruit gelato; the consistency’s like satin. Slippery on your tongue.

And THAT. Was that. The girl-who’s-eaten-four-year’s-worth-of-Italian-gelato’s verdict is out:

The best flavor at the Firenze Gelato Festival is glorified pond scum.

Only the seals expected it.

-Whitney

*You can try Alga Spirulina gelato at the Firenze Gelato Festival 2013 in Florence, Italy. The stand is in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, open from noon to midnight daily till Sunday, May 26! A card with five tastings and a gelato cocktail costs €10.