The first luxurious bite melts on the tongue. The second brings a taste of fig, nuanced and exotic and so sweet it dances on the fine line between perfection and cloying sweetness.
The third doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but by this time it doesn’t matter—all you are doing is trying to have another bite like the first.
And another. And another. And maybe a few dozen more, just to make sure you don’t miss that last tiny drop at the bottom of the infuriatingly rounded cup.
Gelato. Like most other Italian food words, the word alone makes it sound delicious long before you know what it is.
What is it? Nobody seems to know for sure.
Half the cookbooks define it as ice cream with extra eggs, others with no eggs at all.
Some say that sugar syrup instead of grains is where that texture comes from; others say it is cornstarch.
The only consensus seems to be that it is thick, sugary, probably Sicilian and damn tasty.
I have made gelato before, many times—it is difficult. Startlingly difficult, in fact.
Sure, you can make something ice-cream-like and slap an Italian label on it (works for most commercial brands).
But replicating that intriguing texture—meltingly soft but almost taffy-like, not icy but not quite the pure monotone creaminess of American ice creams—has always eluded me.
It is rare to find a perfect gelato in a store, rarer and more arduous still to create it at home.
Now that is not to say that you cannot make gelato at home—anyone with an ice cream machine and a decent recipe can do it.
And I am not denying that this homemade gelato can be good—in fact it can be exceptional.
But I have never replicated the perfect consistency of a great restaurant gelato, nor have I been able to find it in our humble city.
And yet there is a glimmer of light at the end of this sugary tunnel.
I found it in a sleek, modern storefront that housed one of the most exquisite collections of gelato I have ever encountered: roasted almond, blood-orange strawberry, salted caramel, mascarpone—all made fresh in the shop daily.
Devine Gelateria, (19th St. and Capitol Ave. in Midtown) offers me the rare opportunity to relinquish my search for the Holy Grail of desserts without regret, for here I have found what I have so long searched for.