Fast Food International: Yooglers and Vivoli
YooglersCountry of origin: Spain
Locations worldwide: Two in Madrid the US
NYC locations: One near Union Square
VivoliCountry of origin: Italy
Locations worldwide: Two in Florence the US
NYC locations: One in Macy's Herald Square
Two foreign purveyors of chilled treats—each with a very different M.O.—have recently opened in Manhattan.
Yooglers, a kid-friendly, rainbow-drenched candyland with fuzzy green cube seating and winged cartoon cows decorating the walls, gives little indication that this self-serve frozen yogurt store is a Spanish offshoot straight from Madrid. There's just something distinctly American about taking a nonfat (or dairy or sugar-free) foodstuff and piling on sticky sweet toppings.
And the options for excess are myriad. Two stations are stockpiled with over 90 add-ons like crumbled Pop Tarts, every breakfast cereal imaginable, cheesecake bites, mini peanut butter cups and gummies. Of course there's no rule against sticking with fresh fruit and a few walnuts in honey.
The one and only nod to the home country is helpfully described above the dispenser as Horchata from Spain (presumably made with tiger nuts, not rice like Latin American versions). The U.S. location has a few unique flavors, and Yooglers clearly did its market research: fruit punch and cinnamon roll appear homegrown and the maple bacon doughnut and sea salt caramel couldn't be more zeitgeist-y.
Light, slightly nutty and hit with vanilla and cinnamon, the horchata yogurt could be enjoyed naked or used as an unobtrusive base if you wanted to layer on the animal crackers and hot chocolate (52 cents per ounce).
Gelateria Vivoli, tucked away on the sixth floor of Macy's Herald Square flagship, is a different beast, altogether. Attached to Stella 34 Trattoria, a sprawling new Italian restaurant with a menu developed by Lincoln's Jonathan Benno, Vivoli is run by the granddaughter of the famous Florentine original that opened in 1930.
This purist is on par with other imported gelato concepts, Grom and Amorino, and sticks to the earthier tones on the color spectrum. Rainbow-free and lacking neon green pistachio, nine gelati (and three sorbetti) are made fresh daily with no special concessions to the American palate, though, owner and gelato-maker, Silvana Vivoli, joked about coming up with a peanut butter version.
Peanut butter and chocolate isn't really necessary as long as gianduja, the sweet chocolate-hazelnut blend, is available. The most unusual flavor may be the riso, like a frozen rice pudding made with Aborio, of course. Though chewier—the grains are very present—the cinnamon and vanilla profile, also shared by the horchata, is the only thing Vivoli has in common with Yooglers.
Available in cups only, no cones, the densely packed gelato can be deceptively substantial. Visually, the medium ($5.75) seemed reasonable for one, but could easily satisfy two dabblers.
About the author:Krista Garcia is a freelance writer and reformed librarian. Being obsessed with chain restaurants and Southeast Asian food, she would have no problem eating laska in Elmhurst and P.F. Chang's crab rangoon in New Jersey on the same day. She blogs at Goodies First.