Editor's note: In "Fast Food International," Krista Garcia will take us around New York to the many international fast food chains that have landed in the five boroughs. She blogs at goodiesfirst.com.
Country of origin: Italy
Locations worldwide: Seven in China, Italy, Mexico, Romania, and the US
NYC locations: One, in the East Village
In early October, Timi's Gelateria Classica Italiana opened their first US location smack in the middle of highly trafficked St. Marks Place. Practically across the street from Ramen Setagaya (and next to a Baoguette), the block has been turning into a chain-friendly corridor. Even those suspicious of the commercialization are still drawn to Timi's front window, with mounds of rainbow-colored gelato displayed behind glass.
As is de rigueur, Timi's uses hormone-free milk and local ingredients. Artisanal may reign, but that's where they break from the pack—"hand-made," a current menu buzzword, has been replaced with "high-tech" and "robotic." Sadly, there aren't any cyborgs on premises—just pleasant young Italian women training and being trained on how to serve the dishes; all that is meant is the mixing of gelato ingredients has been computerized for a consistent product.
Gelato flavors range from the seasonal pumpkin to classic stracciatella. Unlike Grom, though, Timi's comes across as more fun than earnest--it's doubtful that they've achieved those fuchsia and spring green hues naturally. You won't feel bad for ordering one of their numerous coppa estive (a.k.a. sundaes) or coffee-based affogati instead of a prim, unadorned scoop.
Any place that shapes frozen treats to look like savory food--pizza, spaghetti and lasagna, of course--is a business after my heart. A bowl of pasta is created using vanilla gelato extruded like Play-Doh into chilly squiggles, covered with strawberry sauce instead of marinara, and finished with flaked coconut in lieu of grated parmesan. All that's missing are a few chocolate truffle meatballs.
The children's section also has a few hard-to-ignore novelties, even if you're already of voting age. What folk tale is more Italian than Pinocchio? They've brought the wooden puppet to life with a scoop of strawberry and fior di latte gelato, blue M&M's for eyes and a mouth, a cone for a hat, and cylindrical cookie for a pointy nose. Even better, ice cream Pinocchio sits inside a ceramic Pinocchio bowl.
Timi's also functions as a mozzarella bar, serving the soft cheese straight up in tasting plates, as well as salads and sandwiches. Thefocaccia-based panini are simple two-ingredient affairs like you might pick up at an Italian rest stop (that's no insult). Thick slices of creamy fior di latte and speck, less salty and meatier than prosciutto, on toasted bread isn't something to go out of your way for, but if you're part of a group split on sweet or savory, at least there will be something to satisfy both tastes.