Meredith Kurtzman's gelato at Otto is a perennial favorite of ours—clean, dense, and precise. Her olive oil gelato is the stuff of legend, a little savory along with a grassy sweetness, and it's best ordered in an adult sundae with a seasonal sorbet, citrus curd, and crushed nuts and cookies.
Il Buco Alimentari E Vineria
The scoops they're churning out at Il Buco Alimentari E Vineria are nothing short of incredible. They're less eggy and more milky than Otto's, a little more plush and fluffy than dense, and with equally powerful—if differently delivered—flavors. Salted caramel is one of the most complex, balanced renditions out there; vanilla is big and buttery and totally unlike the mild scoop you're expecting—rarely do you see such intense vanilla bean flavor tied in with such awesome dairy. Perhaps most impressive of all is the Grapefruit Campari sorbetto. It's bitter and tart in equal measure, with a salty-sweet blast of grapefruit more intense than any grapefruit has a right to be. "Refreshing" doesn't really describe this sorbet—"electrifying" is more like it.
Il Laboratorio del Gelato
Il Laboratorio del Gelato has one of the most impressive gelato and sorbetto menus that we've seen. Flavors range from standard chocolate and pistacio to the unusual tarragon and pink peppercorn. Lemon rosemary makes an appearance on the sorbet menu, as does celery. All of Il Laboratorio's flavors ring true: pumpkin tastes like actual squash, mint is the grassiest scoop you've ever had, and the bourbon gelato has a powerful, though balanced hit of hooch. The texture is like no other—it's light and smooth to the point of glassy, rich but not at all heavy. If you're looking for inventive gelato flavors you won't find anywhere else, this is the place to go. Il Laboratorio is also a major ice cream wholesaler to New York restaurants, so keep an eye out for them on menus.
This Paris-based gelato chain does sorbets especially well, with vivid, bright fruit flavors (we like the passionfruit and mango) that look especially pretty in that flower-petal shape that's their trademark (stack two or three flavors for a cone that literally has layers of flavor). Or, as an alternative, try out a few flavors in a gelato-stuffed brioche focaccina, or opt for a refreshing granita.
From this Turin-based chain comes bright, vivid flavors and a classically silky texture. Hazelnut is so rich and full of nutty flavor it could be excused for nut butter. The downside? Even a small (and that's a small small) will set you back $6. But we'll go on record telling you it's worth it. Maybe not as an everyday dessert, but ice cream this rich and lovely doesn't need to be.
The gelati and sorbetti at Osteria Morini are especially light and ethereal—they're slow to melt, but once they do, you'll wonder where they've gone. Vanilla bean and coffee are crisp, floral, and impressively clean; try one of them on a kouign amann from Dominique Ansel Bakery for an ice cream sandwich that dreams are made of. The apricot sorbetto has us especially hooked: it has all the sweet-tart depth of the fruit, but isn't cloying in the slightest.