Lets start with the basics: Ice cream is American. Gelato, however, is a sweet gift from the Italians, ranking right up there with pizza and pasta. (Also, gelato typically contains little or no eggs, more milk, less cream and is churned more slowly than ice cream. In sum, it has less fat, less air and is served slightly warmer temperature.) And while most of us have sampled everything from vanilla bean to mint chip, the latest offerings from local pastry chefs and gelato makers are far from typical. From Bananimal to Zabaglione, we sampled some of the finest sweet treats this side of the Atlantic. And while it’s not a trip to Firenze, you may feel transported to somewhere special with a taste of these frozen creations. Here’s the scoop on a dozen must-try’s:
178 Mulberry St., 212-226-6758
With flavors crafted by Italian gelataios at this Little Italy storefront, we’re partial to the classic Zabaglione flavor (starting at $3.50), a gelato made with sweet Marsala, a Sicilian fortified wine.
355 Greenwich St., 212-274-9310
Buttermilk gelato with Carrot Cake Chunks and Brown Sugar Balsamic (three scoops/$8) is our go-to. Says Pastry Chef Colleen Grapes: “Traditional Carrot Cake has cream cheese frosting and I wanted to capture that flavor combination in an ice cream. One day, I had leftover carrot cake made with walnuts and coconut as well as some buttermilk in the refrigerator … and the rest is history! I think the sourness of the buttermilk goes nicely with the sweetness of the carrot cake.”
54 Carmine St., 212-255-2100
At this West Village neighborhood gem, Chef David Standridge and his team offer their take on classic flavors (think Vanilla Rum, Dark Chocolate and Rhubarb), but our fave is the Sour Cream gelato ($6).
Grand Central Oyster Bar
89 E. 42nd St., 212-490-6650
Pastry Chef Januz Noka is churning out his take on traditional flavors like Key Lime gelato with graham crackers (starting at $6.50), but adds that the most unusual flavor he’s originated at the Oyster Bar is Sea Urchin ice cream. “It’s a big hit all the time,” he says, adding that Mango Black Pepper sorbet is also a hot summertime flavor.
364 Atlantic Ave., 718-330-0888
Newly appointed Chef Robert Noorman cools off diners with his rotating menu of inventive flavors, but the most refreshing is the Pepper Mint gelato (three scoops/$8), made with fresh-cracked black pepper and fresh mint.
Vivoli Il Gelato
Macy’s Herald Square, 151 W. 34th St., 6th floor.
Imagine rice pudding spun into gelato and voila! Vivoli’s Riso gelato, made with Arborio rice (starting at $4.75), is served at its first location outside of Florence, smack in Herald Square.
235 Elizabeth St., 212-219-8094
Among the flavors spun fresh at this new Nolita gelateria is the Basil & Pine Nut, green and crunchy (starting at $4.80), made with organic low-fat milk and sugar from the Biagi family’s sugar cane mills in Brazil.
218 Lafayette St., 212-965-8777
From Pastry Chef Brian Sullivan comes a roster of seasonal flavors of sorbet and gelato, including Rosemary-Violet, also known as the “blue moon,” a Wisconsin specialty invention (one scoop/$3, three scoops/$8).
Sorella & Stellina
95 Allen St., 212-274-9555
Revert back to the joys of childhood with pastry chef Michelle Catarata’s playful flavor, Bananimal: banana gelato, animal crackers and caramel swirl (one scoop/$3, two scoops/$5), served at both Sorella and its sister gelato shop next-door, Stellina.
446 Columbus Ave., 212-595-2624
At her brand-new Upper West Side coastal Italian spot, chef Elizabeth Falkner has a menu of dolci, including Fennel gelato (served with Italian cookies, $10).
407 W. 14th St., 212-596-7255
Executive Pastry Chef Beth Bosmeny, formerly of Eleven Madison Park, makes Manon’s gelato daily, including the Chocolate Earl Grey (three scoops/$9). “This is made with 70 percent Valhrona chocolate and the Earl Grey tea is from the company that we use for tea for the restaurant, Serendipitea. We infuse the tea in the milk for 15 minutes prior to making the custard base. We use more milk than cream in the base to make it creamier, and the chocolate is very dark and rich, which helps balance out the strong flavor of the tea,” Bosmeny says.
21-02 30th Ave., Astoria, 718-545-5550
Blasphemy be damned! Astoria’s Vesta has a Baby Jesus Cake gelato — a spin on their notable Baby Jesus date cake — both made with sticky toffee, dates and cream.
1900 Broadway, 212-595-9606
Try the Pistachio-Black Cherry gelato sandwiched inside a pistachio macaron ($5).