It seems like a quaint peaceful neighborhood, but NY foodies know that the West Village is a battleground. If there were to be food throwdowns (outside of Bobby Flay’s Food Network show), they would most likely happen on and around Bleecker Street. There are at least five major pizzerias on or around the block. You have your pick of any possible speciality shop or bakery. And the gelato battle has officially begun.
L’Arte del Gelato, Cones, and Grom are all spread out along the block. And I haven’t even mentioned the new popsicle stop popbar and the two frozen yogurt options (Eskimix, Phileo). The good news is these shops all seem to co-exist in peace and harmony. And it amazes me that they’re all crowded almost all the time. But it’s fun to stand on the corner of Bleecker and one of the main Avenues and count all the different frozen treats that walk by (held by a person, of course, treats can’t walk!)
I almost didn’t review Grom on this journey because it’s a chain and I’ve decided to ignore Cold Stone Creamery and Baskin Robbins. But Grom is from Italy – not Arizona or California. Plus Grom is on all the best of lists when it comes to ice cream in New York. You can’t say that about Carvel.
Grom changed the game a few years ago when they opened their first U.S. shop on the Upper West Side. People never lined up for ice cream like this before. It was quite a sight to walk down Broadway and wonder what New Yorkers were lining up for this time.
Since then the Italians have taken over a corner in the West Village and their newest location near Columbus Circle. American domination is imminent as Grom will soon expand to California and who knows where else.
This popularity is attributed to a unique, fresh, and authentic product. At the time it was unlike any gelato New York had seen before. It’s all made the old fashioned way with no emuslifiers, colorings, flavorings, or anything unnatural. Just the good stuff – cream, sugar, eggs, and organic, high quality add-ins.
It does seem like most gelato shops in New York advertise this mission statement (and I’m sure it’s true for most of them), but you just fully believe Grom for some reason. Maybe it’s because they don’t flaunt it like other places do and it doesn’t all seem quite as desperate. Plus all their ice cream is made in Italy using mostly Italian ingredients and then the liquid gelato is shipped to New York and frozen on premises. So you know you’re cup tastes as close as possible to the ones being served in Torino.
And this no doubt explains the very hefty price tag. A small cone or cup’s gonna put you back 5 bucks. The portion sizes are also European so the steep small order is gone before you know it. Both because there’s not much there and because it is really good gelato.
The twenty flavors rotate monthly and are all kept in futuristic silver tins that probably help with temperature control. So it’s impossible to get a peek of the stuff before you taste it. You’ll have to rely on the extensive Italian/English menu and the samples you can request as a precursor to the main course. The menu is almost as dense as the ice cream with so many flavors to choose from and a bit of studying is required to determine whether you want gelato, sorbet, granata, or frappé.
There are quite a few chocolate (or cioccolato, if you must) options and I tasted the darkest version. That might have been a mistake. It has some milk, but no cream so the chocolate flavor is denser and richer. I think the sample itself filled my mouth with thickness and sweet bitterness that I almost didn’t need anything else. But the chocolate was full flavored and practically knocked me over with intensity. I also wanted to try the caffe espresso but it was rather late and with the strength of these flavors, I was afraid the sample alone would keep me up all night.
I settled on a cup of two flavors I’m going to have to translate: the Bacio and the Crema di Grom.
The Bacio is made with a Venezuelan chocolate with hazelnut chips from Italy. I probably could have used more translation because I was expecting the chips to be closer to what we think of as chocolate chips. Like a flavored hazelnut ganache chip. No, these were basically just hazelnut pieces. And while it added a rich, nutty flavor, I thought it made the creamy, soft chocolate gelato just a little chewy.
The Crema di Grom was unique and just as intensely flavored. The base is an egg cream (not the Brooklyn soda drink) and it has a sweet custardy bite balanced by dark chocolate pieces (chips finally!) and crunchy biscotti bits. It wasn’t as over-the-top as some of the darker flavors, but it has a light airiness and a rich creaminess that make gelato so enjoyable.
The textures are perfect and the ingredients are varied and no doubt fresh. The only other possible issue at Grom is that the flavors might be slightly too intense. Which is such a pleasant, refreshing change from most of NY’s flat, bland ice cream. And while the gelato battle on Bleecker Street rages on, there’s a whole other battle happening at Grom. Between the gelato and your tastebuds. And I think I might let the gelato win.
Is Grom the best ice cream in NY? Italy gets a 9 out of 10 for bringing perfectly creamy, textured ice cream and strong, true flavors to our dull, weak tastebuds. Thanks for waking us up!
|233 Bleecker Street (between Carmine Street and Sixth Avenue)
|2165 Broadway (between 76th and 77th Street)
Upper West Side
|1796 Broadway (between 58th Street and Columbus Circle)