It has become an annual summer tradition in this space to highlight six or seven local places where we can indulge in predominantly cooling sweets (see last year’s installment). In these nearly unbearable months of July-September, there are few things more pleasant and refreshing than a frozen treat -- like ice cream, milkshakes or smoothies.
Israel is an especially appropriate host for a roundup such as this one. In a recent television report broadcast by a Hebrew-language station, this country ranked an astounding #8 in the world in the amount of ice cream consumed per capita.
Most of the ice cream parlors in the list below offer treats even to those adhering to restrictive dietary regimes, such as vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free. Several of our entries are certified kosher, although virtually all serve food that most consider kosher; the premises cannot earn rabbinical certification only because they are open on Shabbat. As is our wont, entries are not ranked, but rather listed in alphabetical order.
The full name of this chain is Leggenda Gelato Factory and Yogurteria, and it is expanding from its storefront locations into leading multiplex movie theatres, such as select Yes Planet and Cinema City locations.
What is distinctive about Leggenda is its four different yogurt variations: made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk, soy, and sugar-free; complete nutritional information is provided. A yogurt purchase includes an incredible variety of unlimited toppings (e.g., sweet, crunch, fruit); toppings on ice cream are available at am extra charge.
Cool off with: 34 flavors of ice cream (including sugar-free), frozen yogurt, vegan sorbet, milkshakes.
Other menu items: Waffles, crepes.
Recommended: Frozen yogurt with caramel and toasted cashew toppings; Cherrymania ice cream.
Mimi is the place you go to when someone in your party might want something more or different from ice cream. This chain of bakeries and gelato stores, which is affiliated with Nono restaurants, has been expanding from the Sharon region to Ramat Aviv.
As is the case with many good cafés, Mimi offers pleasant surroundings in which to eat and socialize -- including free WiFi -- along, of course, with take-away.
Cool off with: Three flavors of house [green] iced teas, made with imported syrups; iced coffee, soft drinks, beer, cocktails and white wine; 10 flavors of gelato and sorbets.
Other menu items: An extensive menu that rivals that of a restaurant -- sandwiches, salads, savory baked goods, cakes, cookies, etc.
Recommended: Tiramisu ice cream, build-your-own affogato, cheesecake.
Otello is an expanding chain of gelato stores with several distinctive characteristics: the ice creams are made fresh daily in each outlet, they are stored at higher temperatures than many other places, the display canisters are kept closed, and they never use shock freeze techniques. All of this, the company claims, leads to more elastic and less dense textures.
According to Otello, they also use less sugar in their recipes, preferring to derive flavor directly from the raw ingredients. Ice cream orders include two toppings and three kinds of chocolate sauce that flow freely from taps.
Cool off with: 24 flavors of ice cream, including seven sorbets (containing no milk) and 3 vegan ice cream flavors made with rice milk and milkshake specials.
Other menu items: Otello’s own brand of chocolate bars, truffles and cremino, in many exotic flavors; crepes (during winter months).
Recommended: Blonde pretzel, pineapple brûlée, lotus and salted Oreo.
Paradiso del Gelato
The very new (five months old) Paradiso del Gelato is the brainchild of young brother-and-sister olim from Milan, Altea and Alberto. Their ice cream -- made daily using machines imported from Italy -- contains all natural ingredients (no colors or emulsifiers), derives from milk rather than cream, are low in sugar, and are stored closed lying flat in the covered canisters on display. All ice creams are gluten-free (except the one containing chunks of brownies).
Cool off with: 22 rotating flavors of gelato and yogurt -- including Italian classics like stracciatella, fior di latte, bacio and more -- plus six flavors of [vegan] sorbetto.
Other menu items: Crepes; ice cream cakes (if ordered in advance)
Recommended: Gorgonzola -- yes, the blue cheese -- gelato. And don’t be shy to ask for suggestions for flavor combinations: for example, gorgonzola with lemon and/or peach, or the more conventional bacio with pistachio. Finally, arguably the most decadent affogato in town.
Stefan earns its repeat performance this year by virtue of its extravagant Eistorten menu: six elaborate ice cream cakes inspired by world-renowned Viennese desserts. Until now, of course, one could always buy a scoop of the handmade gelato and combine it with one the house’s world-class pastries, such as apple strudel or Black Forest cake; now, however, Stefan does the work for you, spreading semifreddo ice cream in between layers of fluffy cake.
Cool off with: Around a dozen flavors of gelato, yogurt, sorbet -- or any one of the flavors of the new ice cream cakes.
Other menu items: Famous Austrian cakes, pastries and desserts, such as the aforementioned and linzer torte,
Recommended: The unusual salted caramel and miso gelato, a flavor developed in collaboration with celebrity chef Israel Aharoni; blueberry yogurt; Mohn Himbeer or Schwarzwalderkirsch ice cream cake.
A deli is an unusual name for an ice cream parlor, but Wilson Deli is a work in progress. When proprietor Ran Wilson returned to Israel from London -- where he owned the Balkan Bites eatery in the famed Borough Market -- he had different original plans for his new place in the Kfar Saba Market restaurant compound.
But the trained pastry chef is nothing if not resourceful, and he has pivoted to the current “Soft Serve Ice Cream and Juice Bar.” Accordingly, this is the only place on our list this year specializing in frozen custard -- often called “glida amerika’it” in this country -- and fruit smoothies.
Cool off with: Soft serve desserts ranging from simple cups to creative combinations like Oreo blondie and creme brûlée, topped with upside-down cones; a variety of fruit smoothies, based on either yogurt, milk, almond milk, apple juice or orange juice; a limited selection of regular ice cream flavors, in order to incorporate vegan and sugar-free options.
Other menu items: Açaí bowls; new pastry-cum-ice cream combinations are constantly being introduced
Recommended: Chocolate cake a la mode with toasted marshmallows; smoothie combining yogurt, açaí, banana, date and mango.