Let’s face it, it doesn’t have to be summertime to enjoy ice cream, but it certainly makes ice cream more of a treat when it is! As the warmer weather approaches, I find myself craving more and more for this tasty treat. While the original flavors of strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla, will always have their place, modern-day flavors and textures created by mix-ins and toppings are the best things that could have ever happened to this simple dessert.
Although I’ve found some close runner-ups (Talenti brand and Taste The Tropics in Brooklyn, NY that dishes out all sorts of flavor combinations for ice cream and gelato), there’s nothing quite like this tasty treat made in Italy and Jamaica.
Before going further, let me point out some important distinctions between ice cream and gelato (as it’s called in Italy). While both contain their fair share of sugar, gelato contains less milkfat, is served at a warmer temperature, and has a texture that is softer and denser than ice cream. Rest assured that gelato certainly doesn’t skimp on flavor or creaminess, and because of its lower milkfat content, you can certainly feel less guilty when you’re at the counter ordering a second serving.
So now that we’ve gotten those little fun-filled facts out of the way, let me give you the scoop (no pun intended) on a few new places I discovered as well as places I’ve been going to for years that serve up some of the best gelato and ice cream I’ve ever tasted in Florence and Siena, Italy and Kingston, Jamaica.
Every time I walk by one of these displays in Italy, it reminds me of a painter’s palette covered in pigments ranging from vibrant splashes of color to earth tones. As attractive as the vibrant colors are, the earth tones always win my tastebuds over. It’s nocciola (hazelnut), gianduia (milk chocolate and hazelnut), bacio (dark chocolate hazelnut), malaga (rum and raisin), and tiramisu all day every day for me!
GROM – Located on Via del Campanile – corner with Via delle Oche. Their slogan is “Il Gelato Come Una Volta” which translates loosely to “ice cream like it used to be”. While I can’t be the judge of that, what I can say is I lucked out the day I went. Fortunately, I didn’t encounter the long wait in line that customers often time experience, and their gelato lived up to the raving reviews. While they serve up some of the more standard flavors mentioned above, you can be sure you’ll have an opportunity to taste more unique creations such as Crema di Grom (pastry cream with corn biscuits and chocolate chips). They also feature a menu of the month and flavor of the month, so you can expect to see something new throughout the year. Also on their menu is their version of an affogato, made with gelato or sorbet and hot chocolate. (Make no mistake, Italian hot chocolate is in a class to itself! It’s made from pieces of chocolate, sugar, and milk and has a pudding-like texture. It’s nothing like you’ve ever tasted before). As a bonus, all their products are also gluten-free!
Magnum Pleasure Store – Located in the Piazza del Duomo. I was actually surprised to see something like this in Florence because it wasn’t a traditional gelateria. When you walk in, you’ll notice two stations where you add customizations to your ice cream. The first station is where you choose up to three toppings which are placed in a shaker (there’s something like 20 toppings – and at this location, they ranged from Smarties and marshmallows to a variety of nuts). The second station is where you select the ice cream bar of your choice – vanilla or chocolate and the Belgian chocolate you want it dipped in – white chocolate, dark chocolate, or milk chocolate. Once finished, they sprinkle your toppings over the fresh-dipped ice cream bar, drizzle on more Belgian chocolate of your choice, and then top it off with a chocolate M coin to finish.
Before biting into it, I took a moment to admire this masterpiece but didn’t delay too long, and after my first bite, I immediately searched the internet to see if there was a Magnum Pleasure Store in the States.
Not on this list are Vivoli as well as Vencci Cioccolato e Gelato. I’ve heard great things about both. All these years I’ve visited Florence and I’ve never been to either, but they are at the top of my list of places to try the next time I go.
Gelateria Dondoli – Located in San Giminano, in the province of Siena. This gelateria is ranked second place overall among the best gourmet places in the world by Lonely Planet guide and Gelato World Champion holders two years in a row.
Here you can try unusual original flavors of gelato such as Crema di Santa Fina, Champelmo, and other creations such as Sangue di Bue, Pumpkin Cream, and White Chocolate and Grand Marnier. And if you want to experience making gelato first-hand, you can with a class led by none other than Sergio Dondoli himself! This place usually has lines out the door, so be prepared to wait in line, but it’s totally worth it. It’s the perfect summertime treat after a day exploring the town (I know it was for me).
I should also mention that both GROM and Gelateria Dondoli offer an assortment of sorbets, which I’m sure tastes just as scrumptious as their gelato.
Devon House “I Scream” – No trip to Jamaica would be complete without going to Devon House for ice cream. Devon House itself has earned notable accolades such as the Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best 2020 award. Of course, there’s more to Devon House than just the famed ice cream. Their bakery produces fresh homemade pastries as well as an assortment of patties. If you’re looking for more food options, then you are sure to find something from one of the other eateries on the premises.
Devon House “I Scream” has several locations throughout the island. While their original location is at Devon House on Hope Road in Kingston, St. Andrew, all locations offer the same quality of ice cream that’s super-rich in flavor, creamy, and just downright delicious. It’s no wonder this ice cream made by Scoops Unlimited, Ltd. earned them the number 4 spot on the list of top 10 places to eat ice cream in the world by National Geographic.
Some of the more popular flavors that Devon House “I Scream” serves up are dragon stout, rum and raisin, grape-nut, and sweetsop. Of course, they also have the basic flavors, if that’s your preference.
Rolly Polly – Located on Central Ave. in Kingston. If it weren’t for my younger cousin, I would have never discovered this place. The way she spoke about them, I just knew I had to give them a try.
While not as widespread as Devon House “I Scream”, Rolly Polly currently has locations in Kingston, Mo Bay (Montego Bay), Ochie (Ocho Rios), and Mandeville. The very name personifies playfulness and childhood fun, as does the store décor. When you walk into the shop, you’re surrounded by candy-striped walls, the sweet aroma of fresh waffle batter on the griddle, melted chocolate, and a variety of other confectionary snacks while waiting for your ice cream creation to come alive before your very eyes. First, you choose your cream base, followed by your mix-ins and they combine everything on an ice-cold mixing surface. After a few minutes, the cream base freezes, they shave the ice cream into rolls, place them perfectly inside a serving cup, and cover it with toppings of your choice. With over 50 all-natural flavors, the ice cream, mix-in, and topping combinations are endless. Rolly Polly also has something special just for adults, as customers have the option of adding alcoholic beverages to their frozen creations 😉.
Rolly Polly isn’t just limited to rolled ice cream; they also serve up milkshakes and smoothies and even have options for vegans (YES – VEGANS!).
Eggnog and rum cream; fruitcake and Appleton rum; coconut banana; and blueberry matcha are just some of the combinations featured on their menu of frozen treats.
So what about you – what’s your favorite flavor of this summertime treat? Have you visited any of these places? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.