All ice cream is not created equal, according to Jon Snyder, owner of Manhattan's Laboratorio del Gelato (95 Orchard St.; 212/343-9922; www.laboratoriodelgelato.com), a tiny artisanal ice cream shop. Twenty years ago, Snyder, who fell for gelato on a trip to Rome, dropped out of college to open his first ice cream company (New York's Ciao Bella). Today, at his Lower East Side "lab," Snyder toasts almonds, chops mint, and experiments with olive oil, churning out wild flavors like licorice, rice, and kalamansi (a fruit from the Philippines) for 150 restaurants and a new stand at MOMA's sculpture garden. His scoop on where to find the best ice cream in the world?Snyder loves San Crispino (42 Via della Panetteria; 39-06/679-3924; www.ilgelatodisancrispino.com) in Rome: "They make really unique flavors. Their gelato is as good as mine." At Palermo's Le Cremolose (16 Piazza Alberigo Gentili; 39-091/300-292; www.cremolose.it) he tried cashew and raw hazelnut gelato. "In southern Italy, they use less cream, so the gelato is more refreshing," he says. Snyder likes Freddo (multiple locations; www.freddo.com), in Buenos Aires, for its variations on dulce de leche, mixed with pecans, bananas, and plums. He has also heard rumors of amazing ice cream in Russia: "I can't wait to get there."
Gelato aficionados can find some of Sicily’s most popular in a small kiosk outside the Giadini Inglese in Piazza Gentili. Everything is created with traditional techniques and natural ingredients since the 1950s. On addition to the 42 flavors of gelato, the menu also has sorbet, mousse, and parfait. Light lunches and aperitifs are also available in the adjacent glass house, but the highlight remains the cremolose, a dense, semi-frozen, slushy-like, dessert made with fresh fruit or nuts. The most popular flavors are pistachio, almond, and hazelnut.
Il Gelato di San Crispino
Il Gelato di San Crispino has two locations: the original, 15-year-old shop at the Basilica of San Giovanni and a branch near the Trevi Fountain. Try the signature San Crispino flavor with corbezzolo (wild-strawberry-tree honey from Sardinia). But don't ask for it in a cone, the intellectual ice-cream making brothers Pasquale and Giusseppe Alongi believe that cones spoil the taste of their perfect concoctions.
Laboratorio del Gelato
As grandson of one of ice cream giant Carvel’s first shop managers, you might say the frozen treat is in owner Jon Snyder’s blood. Throw in an epiphanal trip to Italy, and you’ve got the genesis of Laboratorio del Gelato. Somewhat hidden among the Orchard Street discount clothing shops in the Lower East Side, this tiny shop takes its décor and method from its name—with a minimalistic, white-tile, laboratory-like interior replete with a glass wall behind which customers can watch the scientist-chefs create new flavors. At present, there are 94 flavors of gelato on tap, including funky flavors like bourbon pecan, chocolate Thai chili, and toasted white sesame.