HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


gelato or ice cream, please

  • r

Just got back to DC from New York, where I was spoiled with Il Laboritorio Del Gelato -- where can I satisfy my craving for gelato or ice cream in DC? (Pref on the red line, but if I've gotta go elsewhere, I'll do it for the goods)

And while we're at it, where's the best?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. By far my favorite ice cream in the area is York Castle. Can be found in Latino and Caribbean places. Tropical flavors, mostly. My favorite is a flavor that is made from mamey, but for some reason do not call it mamey - perhaps because nobody here knows what mamey is. But it has an unusual salmon color. Of the popular flavors, mango is excellent.

    For gelato, the best I've had was the ginger flavor at Sam's in Rockville. Though I also did have the melon which was terrible; tasted much more like lemon cheesecake than melon.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      I'm surprised nobody's yet mentioned Moorenko in South Silver Spring. I've yet to go but from what I hear this is the place to beat in terms of creative, homemade flavors. Somebody on the board was talking about their how great their grapefruit-Campari sorbet was and I know they sell to restaurants. It's on my to do list for this summer.

      For what it's worth I don't think much of York--the ice cream or the place. I didn't find anything special about the flavors I've tasted and the Silver Spring location has absolutely no atmosphere whatsoever.

      1. re: shellymck

        Moorenko is very good -- especially the fruit flavors.

        1. re: Marty L.

          Give me Lazy Sundae or give me nothing!!!
          Vanilla Malt Crunch, Chocolate Black Raspberry....and the Peppermint. I have to go now. What time do they open?

          1. re: Hungryone

            Their Clarendon location has closed.

        2. re: shellymck

          I found Moorenko to be ok, though I may not have hit the right flavors.

          I'd love to know about the dairy at U. of Maryland. It's counterpart at Penn State is one of the best ice cream parlors in the US.

          1. re: Steve

            When I was a kid and families still went for Sunday drives (before TV, computers, or even soccer games) one of the places we liked to go was to U-Md for ice cream, and we'd bring back a couple of bottles of fresh milk. I'm sure things are very different now, but hopefully at least it's run out of the dairy department and they don't just buy Breyers. :(

            1. re: Mike

              When I was there 4 years ago for my dad's 20th reunion, the guy giving all the alumni the tour said it was still run by the department and it most definitely did not taste like breyer's. that being said, i don't remember thinking it was amazing, but it was pretty good by my standards.

              1. re: katie

                Right, it's good ice cream, but nothing extraordinary.

                If you go, you may want to make sure you call ahead. I think they have funky hours of operation.

            2. re: Steve

              The U of Md dairy is good, but not as good as the one at Penn State. People come from all over to take the six week (I think) course at Penn State.

              The dairy at Md is NOT open on weekend and only something like 8 to 5:30 Mon-Fri (unless things have changed).



        3. Rivka: Steve's right -- York is about the best, and certainly the most interesting, ice cream around. Except for the ice cream at 2 Amys (a restaurant), which is uniformly wonderful. (And perhaps the custard at the Dairy Godmother.)

          But as for gelato, you are now officially spoiled -- there ain't nothing here that comes anywhere close to ILdG, or to the olive oil gelato at Otto. The Argentine place on Wisconsin (forgot the new name)) is fine, but not in the same league.

          1. You probably know that Il Laboratorio will ship? Otherwise your best bet is Capogiro Gelateria in Philly as nothing in DC comes close.

            Link: http://www.laboratoriodelgelato.com

            5 Replies
            1. re: Lewes

              Capogiro is now available through Balducci's :)

              Link: http://capogirogelato.com/wheretobuy....

              1. re: brooke

                But isn't gelato one of those things like espresso coffee (are they all Italian?) that are short-lived and need to be fresh for the best experience?

                If you have to buy it from the freezer case, maybe it doesn't matter (other than the name and the cost, giving the sense that you're getting the really good stuff)) all that much which brand you get.

                Is Capogiro the brand that was mentioned here a couple of months ago that costs $10/pint? At that price, unless I was having a gelato party, a pint would last me a few weeks - hardly fresh out of the machine.

                1. re: Mike

                  Well, the gelato from the Laboratorio is $21/pint!

                  Link: http://www.laboratoriodelgelato.com/p...

                  1. re: Marty L.

                    I don't want it to be THAT good.

                  2. re: Mike

                    Maybe my taste buds aren't very discriminating or I simply just don't know what the fresh/authentic/best gelato taste like; the freezer Capogiro tastes great to me.

                    IIRC, at Balducci's, they have a sign saying something along the line that these pints are shipped fresh daily from Capogiro in PA. Thus the flavors available will vary depending on what's in season. I don't know if the taste will deteriorate overtime 'cz I finished it within a week! ;)

              2. Your best bet for freshly scooped Gelato in this area is the Italian Market, but you'll need a car since they're located in Waugh Chapel (north of Crofton, Md) and Annapolis, Md. They offer 24 flavors.


                1. The aforementioned Sam's Cafe in Rockville makes wonderful gelato.

                  And they're about a 3-4 block walk South of the Rockville Metro station.

                  1. Surprised no one's mentioned the gelato at Magruder's in Cleveland Park on Conn. Ave, within view of the Metro station.

                    Georgetown has both Dolcezza's for gelato & Thomas Sweet for home-made ice cream, tho you'd have to rely on the Circulator Bus & walk up Wisconsin Ave at least 5 min. N from M St. A farther walk up Wisconsin is Max's, near S.

                    Then there's Sweets? & Larry's both near DuPont Circle.

                    I read that there's now a Gifford's near Metro Center, but this is the local chain that bought the brand name from the Giffords of the 1970s. They do not use the same ice cream recipes. Flavors taste good tho, but I don't feel like shelling out $4 for a not that big scoop...

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Sal-Monella

                      The reason why nobody has mentioned Magruder's gelato is the same reason why nobody has mentioned 7-11 Slurpees.

                      1. re: Steve

                        Have you actually had Magruder's? I've heard some claim it's quite good.

                        1. re: Jay

                          Yes, I've had Magruder's gelato. I'd never comment on food I haven't personally experienced. It's cheap, but I wouldn't eat it again.

                          1. re: Steve

                            I agree. It was atrocious. So sad, since I pass by everyday.

                      2. re: Sal-Monella

                        York Castle IS the original Gifford's less the tropical flavors which were added after Gifford's ice cream maker started this up several weeks after Gifford's closed.

                      3. My contribution here is to mention the gelato at the National Gallery. It is at the cafe between the East and West buildings. Wonderful - best I've had in DC (although Magruder's in Cleveland Park will certainly do in a pinch).

                        Nat'l Gallery is also the best when I throw Rockville into the mix. Tried Sam's the other week, based on board recommendations. I hate to be a gadfly, but I have to express disappointment. The texture suffered from granularity (freezer burn?), and the flavors were not rich or deep. We only got six flavors, and tasted only a few others, so could it be that some are more succesful than others?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Bonz

                          Agree with the Natl Gallery as the best around

                          1. re: Bonz

                            I agree Sam's Cafe gelato isn't anything to rave about. I live 5 minutes away from the place and I haven't been back since. I've had a couple different flavors like the seasonal pumpkin, the pistachio, and so forth...and the overal experiences were not consistent. Some days the gelato is so-so, other times it gets ice crystals. I definitely would not take any home because gelato needs lower temperatures to retain its textures. Whole foods carries Ciao Bella gelato pints, but they freeze them to the point where I get freezer burn. I've always been curious, if gelato is supposed to be much lower in fat, how come Ciao Bella's gelato pints have sooo much fat? I've been spoiled too by the gelaterias in NYC and in South Florida so I don't really bother trying to find gelato in MD/DC area. I haven't tried the gelato and the Natural History Museum's cafe, but I heard some fairly good reviews. As for now, I just stick with my haagen dazs .

                            1. re: saiboogu

                              I've had really good luck with the Ciao Bella pints at the Tenleytown Wholefoods. The passion fruit sorbet is addictive.

                          2. >

                            Capogiro! Trust me, one taste and you'll never miss Il Laboritorio Del Gelato.

                            It's the ingredients - everything is organic and at peak ripeness.

                            Link: http://www.capogirogelato.com/main.html

                            1. I'm thinking of being had at CF Folks for a $10+ falafel today, and the ice cream special there is white chocolate blueberry. Anyone try the ice cream or know where they get it from?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: MarkF

                                Didn't want to try the flavor they had today, but here's the place where they're getting ice cream these days:


                                Arthur said he likes this place because it's not as sweet.

                              2. I'm a big fan of Dolcezza in Georgetown.

                                1. No one has yet mentioned Shimba Hills Coffee in the Verizon Center. They have four flavors of gelato and two sorbets. Quality is superb, as is for their desserts and coffee.

                                  1. I don't know if they make it in-house, but I've always enjoyed the gelato at DeCarlo's Restauarant on Yuma St, in NW DC (behind AU's law school). Besides being my favorite place for good restaurant-made Italian dishes, they have a great desert menu that has some great vanila and chocolate gelato on the list....

                                    1. Lilit Cafe in Bethesda has great gelato. They make it on the premisis.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: dcish

                                        Gifford's is still my favorite local ice cream around. The chocolate chocolate chip is the deepest darkest richest ice cream I've ever had.

                                      2. Hi, we like the Argentine place in Georgetown on Wisc. and the hand-dipped gelato at Wegmann's--that's for those who don't mind driving. For restaurants, our vote goes for the mango sorbet at Georgia Browns.

                                        1. i second Lilit Cafe in Bethesda as having great fresh gelato

                                          1. Dolcezza just opened up a new store in Bethesda (the new part of "Bethesda Row" -- the block between Spring Mill Bakery and Blockbuster). Went once and it was pretty good, not great. There's also another place over by Corner Slice that's also not bad.

                                            Frankly, I'm pretty disappointed in DC ice cream, esp. compared to Boston where I grew up. Lazy Sundae was pretty good, but Gifford's isn't great (although maybe I should track down Yorks).

                                            1. I think the flavor beaugoris is referring to at Gifford's is the "72 percent chocolate."
                                              I agree that it is phenomenol for chocolate lovers! The taste is intense, it is creamy, just the right touch of bittersweet, and large chocolate chunks generously distributed throughout the icce cream. The chocolate chip cookie cones at Gifford's are wonderful, too. I will say, however, having brought a pint for home, that it does not freeze well, and it it is the fastest melting ice cream I have ever eaten...but it is SO good that I do not mind eating it quickly! Another favorite is Haagen Dazs coffee and coffee-chip ice cream!!!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: chicken kabob

                                                ^^Yes, chicken kabob!! That's totally the one I'm talking about. Bittersweet dark chocolate ice cream with giant chunks of dark chocolate in it. I've never had such a deep, rich ice cream. It does melt quickly - which doesn't bother me since it means less 17 syllable ingredients!!!

                                              2. There is a new gelato place in Clarendon near Whole Foods. Has anyone been?

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: fleur de sel

                                                  Not that new, it was there (and discussed here) last year. Good variety, decent gelato, I guess. Hard to know what's good and what's bad when it's something I have only a couple of times a year. As I recall, when they first opened, they only had a two-scoop serving, more than I wanted to eat and more than I wanted to spend, but I think they do single scoops now, priced so that two scoops is a relative bargain, but it's the though that counts.

                                                  They keep telling me that it has less fat than ice cream so I can eat more. And I keep trying to convince myself of that, because it tastes good. <g>

                                                  1. re: MikeR

                                                    Boccato is the name of the place in Claredon. Compared to other places in the DC area, it is very average.

                                                    Pitango is the new one near Whole Foods on P St. This one is very good but I think their best ones are their nuts flavors, but this place is very over-priced!

                                                    I still think Dolcezza is the best in the area. All their flavors are amazing.

                                                    Mike, please note not that not all flavors are half the fat, and most are VERY close in the same amount of calories as ice cream.

                                                    1. re: Jacey

                                                      Personally, I think Boccato is great, some of their fruit flavors are amazingly fresh and real tasting. In particular, I'm thinking of the peach flavor. I also like the cake batter flavor- it tastes exactly like frozen cake batter from a mix. May not be your thing, but I liked it.

                                                      Jacey's right, the sign says about half the flavors have less fat/calories than reg ice cream, and the other half have about equal. It's pretty easy to tell which is which as the fruit flavors are generally lighter with almost a sorbet feel to them (but still w/ ice cream creaminess). The chocolate/vanilla/coffee/cookie dough type flavors are the full fat. I'm a fan, it's a nice walk from my place so the hike makes it like a nice reward and less of an indulgence.

                                                      1. re: mjhals

                                                        Simplicity which is sold by Balducci's is as good of ice cream as you will ever find sold in a store. It is reminsicent of the old "Out of a Flower" from Dallas which Whole Foods used to carry years ago.