The problem with gelato: by the time you get your hands on it, it’s too late. Maybe American travelers’s love affair with gelato has more to do with the need for some icy refreshment in the Fiorentini heat than a pervasive standard of quality. We stopped at Caribe after 17,000 steps from the Duomo to the Boboli Gardens and back (with a doomed detour to Mizzica, which was closed for the holiday). I would have been happy if they had handed me a five pound block of ice and a pick. The gelato was certainly very good. I also had a wonderful strawberry granita on our way out the door, in bit of overkill. The service was perhaps the best since the girl behind the counter in Rome told the local boys who cut in front us to wait their turn. But the gelato wasn’t earth shattering. I dunno. Maybe I’ve become something of a gelato snob in the mere weeks that I’ve spent in Italy. Do I really expect the sky to open and a heavenly choir to sing every time I put a gelato spoon in my mouth?
That isn’t to say there aren’t quality stops on the Gelato Train. The aforementioned Mizzica*, also run by Sicilians, brings back wonderful memories of our 2008 trip to Florence. Lunch at Teatro del Sale had left me with only enough appetite for something. Unlike Jen, I’m not one to forego a meal, especially in Italy. But asking Lucia for “some pasta” would have created more food than was warranted. Since Luca is a genius at finding these great places for gelato in Florence, and we were going to be introduced to Mizzica, I figured that I could (or at least certainly should) get by with just the gelato. Well, what did they have behind the counter but arancini!? Maybe my first. The first I remember, in any case. The stars were torn asunder and the heavenly choir wandered down to see what I was singing about. Even the guy behind the counter noticed how happy I was. I stole my coffee granita between layers of whipped cream dessert from these guys. Luca had ordered that, and after I had a taste or three, and Jen and Lucia had their tastes, we had to order a second. Mine pales by comparison, so if you get the chance, Borgo Ognissanti 137, Firenze. You too can get an earful of the heavenly choir.
Already this year, there have been a couple of astounding places in Piacenza, Como and Verona. I think you need to have an Italian friend. Lacking that, look for lots of stylish people speaking Italian standing around. We used the other side of this idea in Verona, when we were looking for lunch. Riverside location. Nice menu, good prices. No one was eating there, so we kept walking. Follow the locals.
* 137 Borgo Ognissanti, Firenze. From the Duomo, walk to the Ponte Vecchio, turn right and walk along the Arno. At the second bridge, turn right and then take an immediate left. You’ll pass a police station. Mizzica is just across from a garage…