15 NYC Ice Cream Spots Churning Out Interesting Flavors
From gelato to soft serve, ice cream purveyors are creating authentic tastes that range from sweet to savory to everything in between. Head to Chinatown for Asian-inspired scoops, Brooklyn for Italian classics, or let luck place the ice cream truck on your corner.
After all, a life without ice cream is a thought too ridiculous to ponder.
Growing up in the countryside of São Paulo put Antonio Biagi right in the midst of Brazil’s freshest fruit, sugarcane, and coffee. His belief that food connects people to their past led him to study the art of gelato in Italy. He has since started a quaint shop on Elizabeth Street in Nolita where all gelato is made on site. While his homeland shines through in the açai sorbet, Biagi continues to dole out new ideas, with flavor combinations like basil and pine nut, or goat cheese with candied orange and anise.
Nick Morgenstern, who plates pizza at GG’s and pulls espresso shots at El Rey, is also heavily devoted to ice cream. Driven by the purity of flavor profiles, Morgenstern brands his shop as one that combines a new American palate with a timeless indulgence. Banana Curry, Cardamom Lemon Jam, and Szechuan Peppercorn Chocolate are just a few from the list of endearing, and deliciously unforgettable flavor combinations.
L’Albero dei Gelati
The Lombardy-based café came stateside in 2013 when Monia Solighetto opened doors in Park Slope and continued to grow her cultish following. The emphasis on local produce and the Slow Food philosophy is painfully sincere. Flavors change along with the seasons, but reliable classics like stracciatella and pistachio are always present. What sets this act apart, though, is the savory selections, like saffron gelato (which, by the way, meets its perfect partner in an accompanying scoop of the blueberry sorbet).
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
Founded in the late 70s, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is possibly one of the first spots in NYC to churn out flavors than most would consider exotic. “You can really create an understanding and common dialogue through flavors,” says the founder’s daughter, Christina Seid. “And ice cream, of course, makes everyone happy.” Head to the Bayard Street shop for a selection that includes lychee, pandan (a leaf native to Southeast Asia), durian (a pungent fruit for the brave), and almond cookie (made with fresh sweets from nearby Fung Wong Bakery).
L&B Spumoni Gardens
In 1939, Italian immigrant Ludovico Barbati set up shop in one of New York’s most thriving expat communities. His goal? To bring a quintessentially Neapolitan treat to the masses. Spumoni is caught somewhere between ice cream and Italian ice and comes in a few variations. But at L&B Spumoni Gardens, in Brooklyn’s Gravesend neighborhood, it’s a creamy combo of chocolate, pistachio and vanilla, flecked with pieces of ground nuts—and served best in a flimsy paper cup.
Davey’s Ice Cream
Owner David Yoo comes from a graphic design background, so when he decided to “take the leap” and do something new, he knew it needed to be an equally creative endeavor. Ice cream, clearly, provided many possibilities. “I specialize in very premium and high quality flavors using the best local ingredients and often develop seasonal flavors based on what’s available at the Union Square Farmer’s Market,” says Yoo. Look out for the Butter Popcorn flavor, set to be released this summer at the new Williamsburg location.
Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria
The ever popular Il Buco offshoot puts focus on artisanal, rustic Italian fare. From Old World-style American cured meats to expertly crafted cocktails, Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria is a tour-de-force of la cucina italiana. And it would be a sad day if gelato was nowhere to be found. Flavors like grapefruit-rose water and lemon anisette meet toppings like chocolate gianduia and albicocche in Moscato d’Asti, for a cool menu that’s simply buono.
Opened in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights in 2011, Ample Hills has since become somewhat of a local phenomenon. Ice cream production is taken quite seriously (so much so that owners Brian and Jackie pasteurize their own milk) and the flavors are wonderfully playful. Delve into Salted Crack Caramel (yes, it contains saltine crackers) or the cooler Peppermint Pattie (chockfull of homemade dark chocolate).
Pearl & Ash
While not a parlor per se, Bowery’s Pearl & Ash combines two wonderful things into one — cocktails and ice cream. The Negroni Ice Cream Sandwich starts with sweet ice cream that’s infused with Campari, red Vermouth, and gin. Sandwiched between soft pieces of orange-vanilla cake, the dessert menu item truly elevates a childhood staple.
Here’s one for the lactose intolerant. Victory Garden, in the West Village, sources local New York goat milk for its tangy take on the swirl. Owner Sophia Brittan touts that her creations are lower in fat, rich in nutrients, and of course, tasty. Be sure to sample the floral Honey Lavender and the Vanilla Blackflower.
Oddfellows Ice Cream Co.
The folks at Oddfellows stay true their moniker. With rotating flavors at the Williamsburg and East Village storefronts, sundae seekers can always expect something new. Miso Cherry, Sage Chocolate Chip, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Cornbread are just a few of the unique homemade tastes born from successful experimentation. Check online for the daily menu, as it changes as quickly as a New York minute.
Il Laboratorio del Gelato
The sleek, modern interior of this gelato counter houses a menu of nearly 200 flavors to please both the traditionalist and the idiosyncratic eater alike. The small-scale, methodical approach to production is practically scientific—so much so, that’s it’s been anointed as a lab. Expect flavors that make you think twice about you don’t head to Ludlow Street more often, like Chestnut Honey, Tarragon Pink Pepper, Prune Armagnac, or the Yuzu sorbet.
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
When an ice cream is named after Bea Arthur, any sane human being should want to try it, correct? Correct. Owners Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff started out with a truck and soon carved out a niche all their own—that has something for everyone. Clever names and whimsical ingredients are the theme here, and the crushed Nilla wafers on that Bea Arthur cone are hard to resist.
Luca & Bosco
“We take more of a culinary approach to our ice cream flavors, with a balance of sweet and savory creations,” says founder Catherine Oddenino. Rosemary Olive Oil ice cream gets a drizzle of spicy, cashew caramel, and Black Cardamom (green cardamom’s lesser known cousin) offers a smoky variation—you get the picture. Oddenino has also partnered with local bar, Amor y Amargo, to produce a line of Amaro-inspired ice creams. During the summer, you can find their cart at the Essex Street Market in the Lower East Side.
Throughout the five boroughs, nothing is more ubiquitous during the summer than the Mister Softee truck—whether parked on a corner or playing “Pop Goes the Weasel” as it slowly inches down the street. This is soft serve in its purest (and most customizable form). Choose from vanilla, chocolate, or a swirled combo of both that gets sandwiched between two thin cookies (known as a “cartwheel”) or atop a double wafer cone. And of course, there are rainbow sprinkles, too.