When you spot more than one celebrity at a place in the West Village, you know they are officially on the map. Well, that and because the smart map apps are pretty comprehensive nowadays.
I had no trouble finding L’Arte del Gelato with my Iphone and the line out the door didn’t hurt. I got in line and didn’t mean to stare at the celebrities behind me. Seriously, unless they’re somebody who has really affected me with their work (Dustin Hoffman, Stephen Sondheim, etc.), I don’t get too excited. But I turned around to get a sense of how long the line was and recognized the guy right behind me. I started staring a little bit. Where did I know him from? Did we go to school together? Did he come into the restaurant I work at? And then when I saw a very pregnant Amy Poehler next to him, I realized it was Will Arnett. And what was really an innocent little intrusion turned rather awkward.
And then I told them they could go in front of me. Not because I thought of them as royalty or because I wanted to get a look from behind. But because I hadn’t made up my mind which flavors I wanted. And I had a camera (for the ice cream, I swear!), so it all looked very suspicious.
Willamy (I think I just created one of those celeb monster names like Brangelina) left without much drama, off to enjoy their spicy chocolate gelato cones (Will Arnett likes spicy food! Take that, National Enquirer!). But I was still left wondering what the hell I was going to order.
I first encountered L’Arte del Gelato a year or so ago (before the celebrities entered the picture) all the way in the back of that wondrous place, the Chelsea Market. Founded by two Italians who missed their native gelato so much, they decided to do it themselves (isn’t that always the story?). They now have a slightly bigger kiosk in the market, a small stand at Lincoln Center, and a full-sized (well, not that full-sized) storefront in the West Village. I do remember getting their gelato that first time and the Italian employee surprised me with a little dollop of an extra flavor to complement the flavor I chose. Sort of like a gelato garnish. It was a neat idea and was totally original and memorable.
That didn’t happen here, I’m afraid. While the employees were very nice, they also cut me off at two samples. There were just so many options here and I needed to get a full range of flavors. You know how it is. I needed to taste their biscotti, the blueberry sorbetto, the tiramisu, for chrissake! But I had to play by the rules and so I was left with only two tastes before the final decision had to set in.
Of course, all these flavors were labeled with their proper Italian names. I recognized some like gianduja (chocolate hazelnut) and stracciatella (chocolate chip) but from my very limited Italian vocabulary, the decorative garnsihes on each flavor , and a little help from my gelato scooper, I deduced what was what. I mean, the Olio d’Oliva was rather simple. And the olive oil notes didn’t come out as much as I expected and I was hoping for some more richness. The Ciocco Peperoncino (chocolate with cayenne pepper) was Will Arnett’s flavor of choice, so I had to sample it. It definitely had some heat and rich sweetness for balance.
After much prodding and strategizing, I settled on two flavors in a cone. I love my coffee ice cream, so the Caffé was a no-brainer. And when it comes to gelato, I always lean toward the hazelnut. It just makes me think of Italy for some reason. So I figured the Nocciola delle Langhe was a perfect second choice.
The cone itself was a dollar extra and the tally came up to a whopping $6. And there really wasn’t that much gelato to begin with. No wonder celebrities come here – they’re the only ones who can afford it!
The coffee was rich and silky. And intensely flavored. I felt like I was finishing a meal on the Grand Canal with a perfect cup of espresso. The gelato practically melted away with each touch of my lip like cotton candy. The hazelnut didn’t work quite as well, but it too was dense and creamy and tasted homemade. The problem was as the treat went on, the two flavors sort of became indistinguishable. There was not as much flavor in the last half – just creamy sweetness. Maybe I didn’t pick a good combination as the two flavors sort of melded together. But gelato is supposed to be more intensely flavored than regular ice cream, so I was disappointed that it dissipated toward the end.
But what did work for me was that homemade waffle cone. It actually stole the show. Once I bit into it, I was no longer as interested in the gelato and would have been happy with an empty cone (and if it was only $1, it was a steal!) It had a buttery crispness with maybe a hint of cinnamon. It was by far the best cone I’ve had in the city. Maybe that’s what all the celebs are lining up for.
Is L’Arte del Gelato the best ice cream in NY? While the gelato is silky and intensely flavored at first, it loses something as it goes on and gets upstaged by that amazing homemade cone, giving it a 7 out of 10.
|L’ARTE DEL GELATO|
|75 Seventh Avenue South (at Bleecker Street)
|75 Ninth Avenue (between 15th and 16th Street), Inside Chelsea Market