What’s better than the refreshing iciness of a popsicle in the summertime?
Well, not much. It’s a tall order to fill. But Devine Gelateria (1221 19th St., between L and M Streets) has done it, as I discovered while on the hunt for a cool summer treat in Midtown.
The gelateria has maintained its popularity since its debut nearly five years ago, according to review trends on Yelp.
Devine features a fresh daily selection of 18-plus gelato flavors that vary by season, ranging from the popular Pistachio and Toasted Almond to Turtle (salted caramel gelato with chocolate-and-caramel drizzle and pecans) to the Italian classic: Stracciatella (“Italian cookies-and-cream,” as described by friendly employees).
Mainstays, along with the flavors named above, include Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Vanilla Bean, Caramel with Sea Salt, Rocky Road and Espresso Chip.
Gelato can be purchased in a cone or waffle bowl, as a simple scoop or as a milkshake. Scoops come in size small ($4.75), medium ($5.75) or large ($6.25).
Devine’s website claims that each flavor is crafted from “local ingredients” and “natural flavors,” and you can taste the truth.
Their sorbettos (Strawberry Ginger and Triple Berry were available when I went) are fresh and creamy, the vanilla is classically sweet and more unique flavors, like Turtle, are a symphony of flavors beguiling your tastebuds with their masterful precision.
Richer selections like Espresso Chip and Chocolate Obsession (milk chocolate gelato, chocolate-covered almonds, white chocolate chips and dark chocolate drizzle) achieve an impressive depth – a result of gelato’s five-degree temperature increase from ice cream’s frigid state, according to Devine’s site – while still maintaining the velvet-soft, dainty quality of the sorbettos.
“The result (of the temperature increase) is that your palate isn’t shocked by the freezing cold, and is able to ‘taste’ what you are eating,” the site says.
Owner Elizabeth McCleary learned these tricks in Italy itself, at Carpigiani Gelato University.
The site also explains how gelato incorporates less air than ice cream.
“Gelato only has about 40 (percent) air whipped into it as it is being frozen. Ice cream incorporates up to 100 (percent). Therefore, gelato is denser.”
In addition to in-house gelato, Devine features a lunch menu (until 6 p.m. over the summer, but all day for the rest of the year), a selection of fresh baked goods, gelato push-pops and Temple Coffee Roasters’ coffee and tea.
Although the gelateria isn’t large and the space is filled with wall displays and seating – colorful mosaic tabletops and equally cheery chairs – it doesn’t feel cramped.
If you’re not in the mood to stay inside, however, you can walk along a hallway adorned with photos of Italy to the back patio, an open area with umbrellas, seating and an abundance of greenery.
Eager to enjoy the atmosphere, I ordered Devine’s Lunch Special – a half panini, house salad and small gelato (a perfect portion, in my opinion) for $9.99 – and chose the Chicken Pesto panini and Garden Salad.
After only a few minutes of waiting, my lunch arrived.
The panini struck the balance between hot and properly composed; in other words, it was not the soggy mess some hot sandwiches are wont to become.
The salad – a light composition of greens, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of Parmesan – was its faithfully fresh companion.
While the panini and salad were both delicious, where Devine (understandably) stands out is in their gelato. I didn’t observe any other customers ordering from the lunch menu during the two times I went.
The only negative experience I had was when I asked for my gelato to go (with a bag of ice, so it didn’t melt) and the employee behind the counter replied that I should have brought some ice myself.
I was a bit taken aback, but at my insistence the employee complied and packed a bag of ice with my scoop.
The only other problem I could find with Devine Gelateria is that they are closed on Mondays.
Although I recommend going to the original shop for its quintessential charm, you can also find Devine’s gelato locally at other locations including Pizza Urbano (1050 20th St.) and Hook & Ladder (1630 S St.).
Devine also has a second location at 3610 McKinley Blvd., which is opening during Labor Day weekend.