By Kyle Teal
Italy does some things better than us: wine, bruschetta and gondola racing come to mind.
But what about the sweet stuff?
Gelato is the creamy, ambrosial dessert found on nearly every Italian street corner. Think ice cream on steroids. Think dessert of the gods.
About half of a regular ice cream carton typically consists of air. But gelato, which translates to "frozen," contains less than 35 percent air, making it more flavorful, thicker and, well, gelatinous (with no gelatin, vegatarians). Dairy-crazed Americans can forgive themselves, as gelato contains more milk and less butterfat than ice cream. So grab a spoon, because here’s the scoop on where to get the good stuff.
DolceVita Gelato Café won’t even make you leave your home for a dish of its dairy delight. Smart Cars will pull right up in you driveway with your order still chilled in a cooler. The cafés are all over: Miami Beach, South Point Drive, Sunny Isles, downtown Miami, Hollywood, Coconut Grove and Normandy Drive.
Some of the most popular cones at the Coconut Grove location include Arabean cream, banana split, sky cream and dulce de leche chips.
For locations and more info, visit dolcevitagelato.com
Coco Gelato blends Latin American and Caribbean flavor with Italian influence in its sweets. With locations in Coconut Grove, South Beach, Bayside Marketplace and Miami International Airport, the colorful shops are hard to miss. At the Grove location, smack dab in the middle of Cocowalk, the fruity sorbet cones and smoothies make for a constant stream of sweet-toothed addicts at the open-air counter. Customers enjoy a lower price for dessert than some neighboring restaurants, and they can sit outside for some choice people watching.
Some flavors: Guavabana, Kiwi, passion fruit, tamarindo, almond cream and lemon champ.
For locations and more info, visit cocogelato.com
Ever get a craving for gelato while checking email?
Sunset Café and Gelato on Sunset Drive offers coffee, sandwiches and free Wi-Fi.
Owner Patrick Hudson had the option sell ice cream, but stuck with his European roots. He went with artisan gelato, made fresh every day. "If you ask me, it’s a lot better," Hudson said. "Gelato is a lot creamier and a lot healthier."
Families will pack the parlor on the weekends, setting the stage for gelato-faced youngsters to zigzag the shop until the sugar-highs expire, and, according to Hudson, tourists crowd the shops in the mornings, while locals come in the afternoon.
The shop boasts 51 different flavors, like Nutella and cream, cookies and cream, raspberry and gianduia — a mixture of hazelnut and chocolate.
5701 SW Sunset Dr., 305-665-9898
In Brickell, you’ll find Paciugo Italian Gelato Renaissance, which doubles as a café and parlor and offers a unique menu of sweets like Italian-style hot chocolate and cappuccino con gelato. With flavors like amarena black cherry swirl, banana flambé and orange Grand Marnier, you might not want to drown your cold indulgence in coffee.
60 SW 10th St. (Across from Mary Brickell Village); 305-416-4800; www.paciugo.com
For earthy deciliousnesss, Roma Organic Gelato will satisfy.
Italian-owned and operated, the shop owners decorated its high sky-blue ceiling with airplanes, clouds and a zepplin — "like the dream of a child," co-owner Roberto Rocca said. Andy Warhol paintings and a hot air balloon also add to the Dr. Seuss-like world. Originally from Italy, Rocca and chef Mauro Sirotti claim their 16 flavors contain "no aria," or no air.
Creamy pistachio, dark chocolate and lemon of Sicily top the popularity charts and draw kids to grandpas. It’s all artisan and all organic — from the milk to the whipped cream.
901 South Miami Ave., inside Mary Brickell Village; 786-252-5276
Dieting? Doesn’t mean your taste buds can’t enjoy themselves. RedKiwi‘s frozen yogurt shop in Coconut Grove is oddly attractive from the outside — it’s glowing green aura hypnotizes. Once inside, sensory pleasures only intensify. Flavors like green tea, strawberry and original are tasty, but milkier and less creamy compared to gelato. The non-fat treats are especially flavorsome with toppings. Kiwis, strawberries and blue berries are crunchy-fresh, but if that’s not enough, the impressive array of cereal and hard candies has you covered.
3117 Commodore Plaza; 305-446-2696