Photo from Jay Miller.
I’ve parroted my dad’s life lesson that it’s never too cold for ice cream before but even I have my limits. We’ve gotten almost five feet of snow this year and had ridiculously long cold spells. The average temperature has been about -40 degrees (that’s in Fahrenheit and Celsius). Surely I wouldn’t dare go for gelato in this weather.
…Yeah, totally did. Suck it, Winter Storm Xavier, or whatever it is we’re up to these days.
Il Laboratorio del Gelato is on the corner of Houston & Ludlow (between 1st Ave. & Ave. A). I’ve gone by it a thousand times. I’ve somehow never gone in until now, and even then it was just to be contrarian.
The café is small and has a couple of tables but mostly is there to showcase the day’s 48 flavors. (The lab has 162 listed on the website but not all are available in the café each day.) A raised serving area is bounded in the rear by Plexiglas and gives a clear view to the expansive back room where you can see the entire operation. It’s brightly lit and sterile, driving home the feeling of a research lab rather than a kitchen and small factory.
Only one person was working in the back and one in the front. An extremely friendly guy helped the guy in front of me then happily gave me my two free tastings. I settled on blood orange—you may recall that I love blood orange—and dark chocolate cinnamon.
My gelato was packed side-by-side into a small box and I was given an awesome plastic blue spoon seemingly designed for eating ice cream at a pace other than as fast as possible. It must have worked because I never got an ice cream headache. Then again, it was colder outside than the ice cream was, so you do the math.
The blood orange was far more flavorful than I expected. It had more of a kick to it than the analogous sorbet from the East 12th Osteria. I had to eat it slowly because it overwhelmed my taste buds a little bit but I was very, very happy with it, feeling fresh and clear when I was finished.
I turned to the dark chocolate cinnamon and dove in. It was much creamier and smoother than the blood orange and had a great mix of flavors, but something just felt off. There was too much cinnamon for my taste and I could feel tiny clumps of it in every bite. I’m pretty sure this was by design, but it wasn’t what I expected and I didn’t particularly like it.
Il Laboratorio del Gelato (188 Ludlow St. at Houston St.) reminds me of my neighborhood Ralph’s Italian Ices from when I was growing up: Snappy, no-frills service, a jillion and one flavors, and all for just a few bucks. I’ll gladly be back to sample more of their gelato … when it warms up. They’re open from every day from 7:30 AM (10 AM on Saturday and Sunday) to 10 PM (12 AM on Friday and Saturday).