Il Laboratorio del Gelato
At Il Laboratorio del Gelato, it is impossible to pick an all-time favorite flavor, but easy to have a current flavor affair. My favorite pairing of the moment? Their fruity, seed-speckled strawberry gelato topped off a boozy and utterly refreshingly champagne sorbet. A memorable combination that brings out the best of both of flavors, and gives you a whirl at both their sorbet and their gelato.
Otto's Olive Oil Copetta is a mainstay on an oft-changing menu of gelato-based sweets. Toppings change with the season. Last summer we devoured the gelato paired with tangerine sorbet, candied kumquats, fennel brittle, and Maldon sea salt. But go now, and that one large and fantastic round of gelato is topped with passionfruit granita and lime curd. On the side are fresh strawberries and one very potent streak of basil syrup. If this isn't love, then I don't know what is. For the copetta you have to eat-in, but for just the olive oil gelato, take-out is available.
At La Cremeria, on the border of Little Italy and Soho, I'm loyal to the Monella, a smooth cream gelato base with toasted almond slivers, hazelnuts, and chocolate shards. There are whole amarena cherries folded into the gelato, making for delicious puckery-sweet spoonfuls, offsetting the creamy texture. One flavor per small serving, but if they're not too busy and you ask nicely, they might allow you to put two flavors—in which case the other should be the dark chocolate sorbet.
La Cremeria:178 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10013 (map)
The gelato flavors at Amorino Gelato aren't the best, but their fruit sorbets certainly warrant a visit. They're bold across the board, bright in flavors like Kiwi and Passionfruit, and Mango made from Indian alphonso mangoes. Pineapple sorbet is my single favorite, sweet with a sunny tartness. They allow an unlimited number of flavors in any size, though recommend a maximum of six flavors in a serving.
Banana gelato meets crushed animal crackers—why hadn't anyone thought of that before? The Bananimal is one of many gelato choices at Stellina, but it's my favorite. It's intensely banana in flavor, dotted with big and small pieces of animal crackers. Most of the flavors here are of the chunky sort, like the Chunky Sorella, featuring fudge swirls and chocolate pretzels in salted caramel gelato. La Strada is for the indecisive: peanuts, marshmallows, and brownies in a milk chocolate gelato base. A mouthful indeed.
Sundaes and Cones
At Sundaes and Cones in the East Village, Black Sesame ice cream is the star of the show. It's nutty and comforting in all the right ways, the toasted seeds imparting warm, bold flavor. You're only allowed one flavor for the small size, but it's well worth indulging for a second (or third!) scoop—the black sesame pairs perfectly with green tea and taro.
It's not ice cream or gelato, but I couldn't help but mention the excellent goat's milk soft-serve from the recently opened Victory Garden in the West Village. Choosing among the rotation of flavors is no easy feat; there's salted caramel, lemon poppy, coffee, and chocolate mastic, just to start. But you can never go wrong with the original, silky with the naturally pleasant tang of goat's milk. Pair with honey and nutty crumbled halvah and you've got yourself a little piece of heaven.
L'arte del Gelato
Pistachio reigns king at L'arte del Gelato, but panna cotta, one of their richer and heavier flavors, ranks in a close second. It's lightly swirled with a somewhat nutty caramel, turning the gelato a beautiful pale, off-white shade. Pair with the pistachio and you've found a combination that's hard to beat.
With the opening of Love Gelato on 7th Avenue in the West Village we now have four gelato shops within a five-minute walk of each other. Overkill? Surely not. The more the merrier! Love Gelato is a solid newcomer, with strengths in the darker, richer flavors, like a Bacio creamy with whole toasted hazelnuts, a Caffe that could be easily renamed Espresso, and a silky Nutella gelato.
Melt Bakery is best known for their creative, quirky, and always delicious ice cream sandwich combinations. Flavors change frequently; they include creations like Thick Mint, a pairing of peppermint ice cream with crackly chocolate cookies; Elvis, with peanut butter cookies and a truly excellent banana ice cream; and Cinnamax, with cinnamon ice cream and snickerdoodle cookies. My favorite, however, has to be the Lovelet, with plush red velvet whoopie pies sandwiching a velvety cream cheese ice cream.