In the sizzling heat of summer in NYC, there is nothing quite as refreshing as a frozen dessert, and with the plethora of gelato shops in the city, it isn’t hard to satisfy any sweet tooth. While ice cream and froyo are still all the rage, gelaterias boasting the flavors of Italy have always anchored a real niche in NYC food culture, cumulatively serving up 5,000+ flavors. For those who are new to gelato or NYC, we’ve put the spotlight on three of our favorite shops: Il Laboratorio del Gelato, Grom and Ciao Bella, so you know where to go for your next gelato fix.
Go for: an incredibly large variety of flavors (We encourage you to try the weirdest ones!)
- Flavors pictured (clockwise): honey lavender, kaffir lime, toasted white sesame, pink peppercorn
- Other weird flavors to order: Guinness, sour cream, Turkish fig
- Every day, they send out 400-500 88-ounce containers to restaurants, hotels and theaters
- Primarily a wholesale operation with 48 flavors for retail display on any day
- In addition to chocolate and vanilla, Lab will always have salted caramel – customers recently voted for this flavor in a Facebook poll.
We chatted with owner Jon Snyder about Lab’s great variety of flavors, “Since we make over 300 flavors, what ends up in the retail case is kind of random – it’s all based on what local restaurants, theaters and hotels are asking for. We actually make 15 varieties of chocolate alone, but dark chocolate is by far the most popular.”
Go for: 100% natural (and eco-friendly) gelato in flavors that are incredibly true-to-taste
- Flavors pictured (top to bottom): Crema di Grom (egg-flavored gelato with corn biscuits and chocolate chips), bacio (milk chocolate gelato with hazelnut pieces), raspberry with chocolate chips and yogurt
- Grom upholds the traditional Italian practice of keeping gelato beneath the counter, covered with lids, to maintain an even consistency through a controlled temperature
- You absolutely must try the homemade whipped cream, created in an “planetarian machine” patented in the 1950’s.
- Spoons and shopping bags are made from bioplastics produced by Novamont and all paper products are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as the most eco-friendly
- Grom even makes a dairy-free chocolate, perfect for lactose-intolerant chocolate lovers
- Every month, a special flavor is featured
- Grom grows a portion of its fruits in an organic farm called Mura Mura in Italy; you can see where the fruit in your sorbet came from by checking out these images
- Grom serves granita siciliana (slushy, flavored ice) in the summer and hot chocolate in the winter
USA Country Manager Giovanna Zaaruolo explains Grom’s process for developing gelato flavors: “We have a department that travels around the world to source our ingredients – for example, we source the coffee from Guatemala or Ethiopia, the pistachios from Syria, Italy or Turkey and the chocolate from Venezuela, it’s all about finding where the best ingredients for each flavor are located.”
3. Ciao Bella
Go for: authentic gelato that you can also buy in the supermarket to continue the delicious experience
- Flavors pictured (left to right): blood orange, bartlett pear hibiscus, pistachio and Bourbon caramel chocolate
- Started by Jon Schneider, the current owner of Il Laboratorio (Coincidence that both of these places are delicious? I think not.)
- Based on a family recipe from Torino, Italy
- Can be found in most grocery stores; certain stores sell flavors exclusively. Strawberry limonata, for example, is an exclusive pint flavor for Whole Foods.
- Winner of 17 Sofi awards, based on blind taste tests
- Ciao Bella makes several flavors of vanilla by sourcing vanilla from different locations around the world, including Tahiti and Madagascar
Manager Dave Sheridan discusses the different store locations, “Three-quarters of a million people come through [Grand Central] each day, so half of them are regulars here and half of them are tourists. Most of them are adults, though, so we try to cater to them by having flavors like white peach sangria, while at our 92nd street location, we have more kid-friendly flavors like mint chocolate chip.”
Stay tuned for our next round of melt-in-your mouth gelato places, coming soon.