Category Archives: florence

LA Gelato for Real!

As promised, I did use my next visit to Los Angeles to form my own opinion of the Gelato Bar on Hillhurst, in Hollywood/Los Feliz. Less than an hour ago, in fact, so I’m posting while all of my impressions are fresh (for a change).

Dawn did not exaggerate.

This is easily the best gelato I’ve tasted outside of Italy and rivals most of the gelato I tasted INSIDE Italy. This gelateria is owned by a third generation Italian gelato maker, and it shows. Okay, it’s a little pricey, but compared to a plane ticket to Florence, it’s one heck of a bargain!

They take pride in both the freshness of their ingredients and the proportion of fresh fruit or other natural flavorings in each variety they offer. They make about 70 different flavors and rotate them, offering a couple dozen at a time–though a few favorites are always available. Next time I’m in LA (this is a fairly short visit, alas) I plan to make a point of going back and trying some different selections.

For this visit, I went with the Cioccolato Sorbetto and the Menta, while Dawn chose the Olio d’Olivia and the Blueberry-Pomegranate Sorbetto. Before ordering, we tasted both the Cioccolato and the O d’O–partly because I was skeptical about both. Chocolate Sorbet? Really? Oh, yes. Really. I was expecting ice crystals, but no. Very smooth and creamy and INTENSELY chocolate. I asked and was told it’s made with water instead of milk (hence, sorbetto–and which means someone lactose intolerant would be fine with it) and with 70% cocoa. This chocolate may just beat out Il Grand Duca in Florence for richness. The Olio d’Olivia was described as “sweet cream and olive oil,” which sounded…unlikely. But it was delicious, with just a hint of rich olive oil taste. Since we were told it paired well with the fruit flavors, that’s what we did.

Blueberry-Pomegranate sounded like such a winner we ordered it without tasting first and were not disappointed in the least–and it did indeed pair excellently with the O d’O. Mint is always a fave of mine and went divinely with the rich, dark chocolate. (Ooh, and they also put in lovely cookie sticks with fudge drizzled inside. I recommend using it as a spoon until it’s gone.)

If I ever said (as I might have) that you just can’t get authentic Italian gelato in the States, I take it back. The Gelato Bar is superb and well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Los Angeles. Kudos!



Gelato in Indiana!

Yes, it’s true!  We heard about it a little while ago, but scarcely dared to believe it.  Finally, this weekend, we drove up to Clay Terrace in Carmel to check out Gelato Da Vinci ourselves.  And it’s twoo, it’s twoo!  Perhaps not up to Florentine standards, but perfectly passable gelato, right here in Indiana. How exciting is that?

We had to try the chocolate, of course, as that’s our standard. Not the best we’ve had, of course, but not the worst, either (and this is compared to gelato around Italy, so “not the worst” is actually pretty high praise). We also tried the rose (not as intense as Fenoccio’s, but not bad at all), the “love affair” (Tia Maria and coconut) and the “Italian kiss” (bacio, which is basically nutella). But the standout was the creme brulee. Excellent! Definitely a flavor to go back for.

Afterward, we tried a scoop of the blueberry sorbet, mostly out of curiousity, and it was okay, but if I hadn’t seen the sign, I might have guessed it was raspberry.

Clearly we’ll need to go back for further research–though if anyone knows of any other gelaterias in Indiana, please share!

–Brenda 🙂


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Singing on street corners

Actually, it was our second night in Florence that you sang on the street corner, Beth–after our lovely dinner (is there any other kind in Florence?) at Buca Poldo and dessert at Gelateria Dei Neri (which I believe you rated as your #1 pick). So you were probably more drunk on dark chocolate and fior de latte gelato than on wine by the time we talked you into singing.


For the record, everyone, she raked in 40 euros in half an hour of singing! I’d say that cap we bought earlier in the day (for about 5 euro) was a good investment.  The best part was the look on your face when you counted up your earnings after we got back to our room that night. First stunned, then speculative, as you realized you could actually live on this kind of money!  Always good to have a backup plan.

–Brenda/Mom 🙂


Ah, Florence…

Beth here.

Thanks, Mom. Now I’m all nostalgic and sad because I’m stuck in Indiana and I want to be wining and dining on the Arno… Was that the same night that I ended up drunkenly bursting into operatic song at the market on the Porta Rossa? I know that there was a lot of fabulous wine (and grappa… and limoncello…) consumed at dinner, so it might have been…

If I could hear myself now, I’m sure that I’d be embarrassed, but at the time, I thought I was sounding GREAT (isn’t alcohol wonderful?)! But at least a few (possibly drunken) tourists seemed to agree with me. I think it was you who had the idea to put out a hat when a crowd started to gather and we ended up making enough to cover gelato expenses for at least a few days.

Which is funny, since I’ve tried singing on the street in downtown Chicago only to be met with confusion, glares, people staunchly trying to pretend I’m not there, and the occasional furtive “pity change” thrown my way without making eye contact, which is SO not the point. In Florence, I think most of the people who gathered were American tourists, people who might have been annoyed if I were singing in *their* hometown. But because it was Florence…it was charming; they gathered, they actually listened, they enjoyed.

::shrugs:: If I have to go to Italy to find Americans responsive to opera, that’s fine by me. I still have fantasies where I just run away and live as a high-class bum singing opera on the streets of Florence… Any takers? I could use a guitar player…


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Filling in some blanks

Reading back over some of my earlier entries here, I see that I more than once promised to post extra details later—then never did.  So now I’m going back over some of the notes I took during our ice cream tour of Europe this summer—well, as much of a tour as we could fit into two weeks—so I can fill in some of those details and keep my promises.

Given how much we’ve raved about the ice cream in Florence, I’ll start there. When we arrived on the train from Rome, we walked to our hotel only to find that they were overbooked. The manager apologized profusely and compensated by giving us a room around the corner—a beautiful one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen (which went to waste, as the food there is so good) and living room. For the same price we’d have paid for a hotel room! Lovely. We dropped off our backpacks and went out to explore, stopping along the way at Deanna, a café by the train station, for sandwiches and gelato (of course). Both were inexpensive and better than we expected, given the location.  We split a small cup of coffee and tiramisu gelato. The coffee flavor was excellent. The tiramisu (never my favorite anyway, but I was overruled) was a bit chewy but not bad.

Caffe Deanna

We were too late for the Duomo, which was already closed, but we wandered along the Piazza della Republica with its interesting mix of Roman columns and a merry-go-round, and the Piazza della Signoria with its replica of Michaelangelo’s David and more than a dozen original famous sculptures. Beware, though—at the Caffe Fiorenza nearby we found the only substandard (and overpriced) gelato in Florence.

We wandered over to the Uffizi Gallery to check the line, but without much hope, as Rick Steves describes as containing the “greatest collection of Italian Renaissance paintings in captivity” and also highly recommends reservations. Here we discovered a phenomenal stroke of luck: not only was there no line because the museum was closing in an hour, but admission was FREE because we had fortuitously arrived in Italy for Culture Week! We made wonderful use of our hour, absorbing more breathtaking art in one place than should be allowed: paintings by Raphael, Rubens, Michaelangelo, Titian, Leonardo da Vinci, Boticelli—famous paintings we’d seen in photos our whole lives, up close and personal. I won’t even try to describe this experience.

We were nearly the last to leave the Uffizi. From there, we went across the Ponte Vecchio to the Golden View Open Bar restaurant, which Bethany and I had loved on our first visit two years earlier. We were early enough to score a table with a view of the Arno, and the waiter was so taken with my girls that we received superb service. When he discovered both girls were mine, he thanked me! The food was equally superb—focaccia and cheeses, chicken with truffle sauce, salad with tuna and avocado, and Chianti, of course. This was Tuscany! Here’s the view from our table.

River Arno and Ponte Vecchio

Grappa and limoncello afterward. We spent nearly three hours there, then waddled back across the Ponte Vecchio to the Caffe Delle Carrozze at the foot of the bridge for our final gelato of the day. The chocolate mousse, in particular, was divine.

Back to our lovely room, walking arm in arm in lockstep, just to confuse people, talking and laughing all the way. A perfect afternoon and evening, with the prospect of another full day in Florence tomorrow.

–Brenda 🙂

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Posted by on November 2, 2007 in art, europe, florence, food, ice cream, italy, travel