Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Gelato of Florence
We've spent a couple days leading up to this survey of the gelato of Florence. The cat's already out of the bag as regards to the best gelateria in Florence; Dei Neri. And as much as one might like to be the great gelato sleuth of Florence, ferreting out some miraculous hidden gem, the fact is that if, from my research, I had to guess what would have been the best gelateria in Florence I would have guessed Dei Neri.
This is not bad news! Dei Neri is centrally located, easy to get to, and never, as far as I can tell, besieged by any serious lines. If you want just one gelato in Florence, go to Dei Neri, and if you want to experiment, start with Dei Neri. Simple.
But the other good news is that all these runner up finishers to Dei Neri are so close in quality to Dei Neri that it's just not that big a deal, unless you're an absolute gelato fanatic, to miss Dei Neri and instead end up at them, mostly. Especially towards the top of my list.
Which brings me to my ranked list of Florentine gelaterias:
1. Dei Neri
The best flavor I had was coffee, which, unlike any coffee gelato or ice cream I've ever had, both tasted exactly like coffee and tasted better than coffee, both true to coffee, and the ideal of coffee. They had one of the best pistachios I've had here too, matching Come il Latte's remarkable version in Rome. Once I got a four flavor cup all of fruit flavors, raspberry, passion fruit, mango, maybe clementine? All the flavors were reliably pure and straight from the fruit, the gelato fresh and impeccably smooth, and the sweetness quietly pitched.
2. Della Passera (tied)
A sweet little place in the Oltrarno (but not the far away Oltrarno like the one it's tied with, more just across the river from the main parts of Florence). I had a two-flavor cup of clementine and vanilla and the clementine was an eye opener, fresh, sparkling like a really good clementine, and the vanilla was a smooth perfect foil. I wish I could have tried more from here, but this was so nice and felt so right!
2. Pintucci (tied)
Here, alas, is the wonderful gelateria pitched maybe a bit too far from the center of town and from where most travelers will be to be worth the extra trip. As a reader of gelateria reviews and blog posts I find these kinds of places particularly irksome as they're immensely interesting to me, but usually, in the end, not quite worth the very specific journey. So for you I'm glad this wasn't the very best of all gelato, per se, even if it was fantastic. That it was fantastic was great because my lovely wife, who so kindly indulged my frequent gelato diversions, and I just so happened to be staying out here for part of our trip, just beyond the Porta Romana. I had a lot of gelato here! The flavors were very pure and only the slightest step off of Dei Neri. The high water mark for them was the best hazelnut I've ever had. It was brilliant. It tasted like, get this, hazelnuts! They had a really good passion fruit here too.
4. Strega Nocciola
They have a couple locations here, one practically on the river in Oltrarno, and another just off the Duomo. They also have one of these in Rome, in the Spanish Steps neighborhood, which is where I first encountered them and the utter glory of their lavender gelato. I tried their bright, brilliant strawberry this time around too. This is my fourth best in Florence and I'm still splitting hairs really. If you only had gelato here and nowhere else you won't really have missed anything. This is amazing gelato.
5. Perche No, Eduardo, and Sbrino (a three way tie for fifth)
Any city would be proud to host any of these gelaterias and there would be awfully few of those cities wherein any one of the above wouldn't be the absolute best ice cream of any kind in the city.
Perche No is maybe the most famous of the Florence gelaterias and I found their chestnut fascinating, hazelnut extremely close to Pintucci's above, and their caramel delicious but short of amazing. As with any singular visit to a place as good as this I can only wonder if, in a different mood, or having chosen different flavors, I might be ranking them even higher than my already high regard.
Sbrino I don't have to wonder about all that with Sbrino as it was small, charming, and also (maybe unfortunately for you) out across the street from Pintucci, in the distant Oltrarno, so I did a more thorough survey of their gelato. Their quality was unmistakable, most compellingly in a rather amazing Fior Di Capra, which was a plain goat milk gelato. Don't knock it til you try it. Grape with all the skin bits in didn't quite work, and a signature flavor with maybe hazelnut and white chocolate was good but not as good as it sounds. Nevertheless I kept pulling for the place, and when they got it they really got it.
Eduardo, right on the Duomo, was, well, my notes fail me! Sorry. I loved it but cannot for the life of me remember anything about it. There goes the curse of eating too much fantastic gelato!