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Best in the BayArea...Gelato Firenze(Oakland)

d
doxxie lover Sep 17, 2007 01:12 PM

We are diehard gelato gunkies and have driven all the way to Petaluma for the good stuff and we were thrilled to find the best of the Bay right in our own negihborhood. It is Gelato Firenze right on Lakepark in the Grand Lake/ Lakeshore district of Oakland.

They have strsight up genuine Italian gelato and sorbetto that could have easily come from any shop in Florence or elsewhere in Italy. They have over 30 flavors and also make soy versions.

I had a large (up to 4 flavors) with Rum Raisin, Mocha, Butterpecan and Chocolate. Can I tell you I almost died and went to heaven?

The Owner is a sweet gal named Ashley who really loves what she does and was totally open to feedback and even my recipe for homemade caramel sauce as she is experimenting with that flavor.

Please try to go to this great find. It's a welcome addition to the area.

  1. MofCarson Sep 17, 2007 01:48 PM

    Is the place located to the left or right of Kwik Way Hambergers, as you are facing the hamberger place?

    1 Reply
    1. re: MofCarson
      c
      chompy Sep 17, 2007 02:39 PM

      To the left...it's just about next door to the KFC, to the right.

    2. JasmineG Sep 17, 2007 02:06 PM

      Since it's not in the places yet, the address is 478A Lake Park Ave in Oakland. Does anyone know what the hours are like?

      3 Replies
      1. re: JasmineG
        c
        chompy Sep 17, 2007 02:41 PM

        I think the hours are something like noon-10 during the week and then open until 11 or midnight Friday and Saturday...a good stop right before or after a movie at the Grand Lake.

        1. re: JasmineG
          rworange Sep 19, 2007 12:12 AM

          Uh, actually it's had a places record for a couple of weeks. Hours are on the places record.
          http://www.chow.com/places/7165

          I agree it is the best gelato in the Bay Area and I've had lots more since my first visit
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/437051

          Don't forget the give a free size upgrade with a Grand Lake ticket stub.

          My favorite remains the cherry.

          1. re: rworange
            JasmineG Sep 19, 2007 10:08 AM

            Huh, then the Places search didn't work, because it still doens't come up when I search for it.

        2. Mission Sep 18, 2007 07:03 PM

          After hearing your report ,I went to check it out.

          Service was fine,gelato display looked great!

          Tried 6 different flavors with my GF ($4 for a 3 scoop cup)

          Sadly,none of the natural ingredients came through at all.

          It was kinda strange?

          We were really disapointed,it actually tasted like cheap artificially flavored ice cream from Safeway.

          Plus with Kwik Way closed for remodeling, the area was pretty creepy at night.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Mission
            c
            chompy Sep 18, 2007 10:26 PM

            Wow, sorry to hear you didn't like the gelato...which flavors did you try?

            I've only been there once, and tried the cherry, the caramel, and the super chocolate, all of which I liked.

            1. re: chompy
              rworange Sep 19, 2007 12:16 AM

              Yeah, really ... which flavors did you try? Some of them are more strongly flavored than others, but the one thing for all flavors has been the fresh fruit taste.

              1. re: rworange
                s
                shaker53 Sep 19, 2007 02:02 PM

                I tried watermelon gelato and it was very delicate in flavor and color, not too sweet. My husband's coconut was sweeter than he generally likes, but still very nice.

                1. re: rworange
                  oakjoan Sep 19, 2007 02:13 PM

                  I tried both the non-dairy and dairy strawberry and both were really good. Strong taste of strawberry.

                  I've also had the caramel and coconut and both were very good.

                  I love that this place has opened in my neighborhood! Even though a previous poster called it "kinda creepy at night"....which I don't see at all. Maybe because it's across the street from the parking under the freeway which is sorta deserted at night?

                  1. re: oakjoan
                    l
                    Lillian Hsu Sep 19, 2007 06:05 PM

                    I like the passionfruit and the regular chocolate.

                    It really is a great addition to the neighborhood!

                    1. re: Lillian Hsu
                      Mission Sep 20, 2007 09:58 AM

                      We tried rumraison,coconut,mintchip(i think they call it something else)
                      Chocolate ,strawberry and pistachio.

                      We parked in front of Holy Land and walked around the corner at night.
                      When open, Kwik way added a lot of light and activity to that area.
                      Now its very poorly lit,drunks at Serenaders Bar and panhandlers at the B of A ATM.
                      I would not recommend the walk for a women at night.

                      FYI, I 'm 45 and was born and raised in Oakland.

                      1. re: Mission
                        oakjoan Sep 22, 2007 10:36 PM

                        I'd try to park on Grand and walk back to Gelato F. There's more traffic and better lighting. Lakeshore is pretty dead at night and what's open is mostly at the far end of the street, near Mandana.

              2. re: Mission
                g
                gumonmyshoe Oct 16, 2007 12:32 PM

                I second this...kind of yuck. We tried two flavors...if I recall it was pistachio and coffee. Coffee was passable, but he other tasted fake, fake, fake. You are better off buying Ciao Bello at the grocery store.

              3. m
                MKatrinaToo Oct 1, 2007 09:28 AM

                We finally made it in here yesterday. We had to wait several minutes for the couple already in the store to vacillate among the flavors and to sample several others. Plenty of time to mull things over. When it was finally our turn, I asked if we could have the 4 flavors in two different cups (it's kind of hard to "share" w/ my husband) and the clerk seemed generally flummoxed. I said never mind and I sampled the passionfruit which was amazingly tart and true to the real fruit. We ordered the American Black Cherry, watermelon, mango and pineapple. Only the watermelon for me bordered on disappointment. It was oddly more reminiscent of a vegetable in its mildness and delicacy. Now that I think about it, the watermelon was more like cucumber! (Same general biological family, or something like that?)
                The clerk did give us a paper cup of tap water when asked. On a tangent, I liked the tasting spoons (which are also the regular spoons), both size and color, as well as the cups used to serve the gelato. The four flavor serving was $4.75.

                1. lexdevil Nov 26, 2007 09:06 PM

                  Finally got there tonight. 13 year old son liked the cookies & cream. Hubby loved the persimmon and pineapple. I enjoyed the super sticky and dark super chocolate, but the real standout for me was the rice (riso). Fresh, clean flavor with moderately chewy grains of rice.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: lexdevil
                    rworange Nov 29, 2007 09:35 PM

                    I stopped by tonight hoping for persimmon, but they won't have more for about two weeks.

                    They have some nice holiday flavors right now and they also have a few wine gelatos.

                    The standout for me was the cranberry gelato which had great cranberry flavor and wasn't overly sweet.

                    I liked the petit sirah gelato a lot. The merlot was ok.

                    The had rum raisin with a cute little airline-size rum bottle on top ... you know ... how pieces of fruit usually on top to identify the flavor. The ginger was good, but don't remember if I reported on that before. Lavander is one of their 'work in progress' flavors and pretty nice.

                    I'm sorry but I just don't get the negative reports on the place. I could understand different tastes but what I'm reading is not remotely close to anything I've tried. To me it remains some of the freshest and most flavorful gelatos in the Bay Area.

                    This is the only food site getting these slams of this place. Everyplace else (and I've checked a few) is just giving it raves.

                  2. e
                    eldub Nov 29, 2007 06:28 PM

                    All I can say is EUWW. I agree that Firenze tastes like stale Safeway ice cream. It was not the best but the WORST gelato I've every had...if you want to call it gelato. Try Tango or Naia.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: eldub
                      a
                      AriTheDog Dec 13, 2007 08:56 PM

                      Honestly, Tango gelato is the worst gelato in the Bay Area by far. There's such a huge ratio of stabilizers in their sorbet that it can be pulled like gum. Same for the gelato. They're using a mix, and it shows. Yechh. Naia is hardly any better.

                      1. re: eldub
                        ChowFun_derek Dec 14, 2007 09:12 AM

                        I disagree...Naia is at the bottom of my gelato places, and I have only had good experiences so far at Gelato Firenze!

                        1. re: ChowFun_derek
                          rworange Dec 14, 2007 11:53 AM

                          Can't believe the link to the Place record was lost.

                          Stopped by with a friend who is now a Firenze groupie. He liked the delicate rose gelato ... might be interesting combined with lavendar and one of the wine gelatos.

                          The pommegranite and cranberry combo I had was quite good.

                          And it is both our opinions that the top flavor there remains the cherry.

                          -----
                          Gelato Firenze
                          478 Lake Park Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

                      2. e
                        eldub Nov 29, 2007 10:34 PM

                        I'd be curious to know how they make the stuff and whether it even qualifies as gelato. I don't like too-sweet either, but sorry, I can't imagine it's "genuine." It doesn't remind me of the gelato in Florence at all.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: eldub
                          rworange Nov 30, 2007 06:59 AM

                          Ask the owner. She's almost always in the store. If she's not up front she's in the back making the gelato so you can ask to talk to her.

                          1. re: rworange
                            Mission Dec 14, 2007 10:22 PM

                            Here is some additional background.

                            I am still wondering if she only uses 100% natural flavorings??

                            "Once upon a time, Ashley Young imported charm bracelets from Italy and sold them in the Bay Area. During her visits to Italy, she fell in love. Conveniently, it was with gelato. When she thought of launching a business closer to home, she decided to follow her passion, enrolled for lessons with an Italian gelato company that runs how-to courses in the United States, and went to Texas to learn.
                            By chance, Young went with a friend to a neighborhood meeting near Lakeshore Avenue, held to protest the proposed opening of a McDonald’s. She heard mention of the bakery cooperative Arizmendi and all the great things happening near the lake. When she saw a storefront for rent near the Grand Lake Theater, she grabbed it. After a year and nine months spent dealing with red tape, she opened Gelato Firenze in August—four years after deciding to follow her passion and make gelato part of her life. Her trademark, she says, is fresh ingredients She has a range of Italian sodas and makes a “gelato juicer”—a smoothie with frozen fruit and sorbetto ($5.95). Her gelatos range from $3.25 for two flavors to $8.95 for a pint.
                            Gelato Firenze, 478 Lake Park Ave., noon–10 p.m. Sun.–Thu., 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri. and 10 a.m.–11 p.m. Sat."

                        2. Melanie Wong May 7, 2008 07:31 PM

                          I finally had a chance to try this three weeks ago.

                          Sad, sad, sad. Only one of the two cases had any product in it, and what was there looked like a mess. Some of the containers only had a couple dabs in them. Other places would toss those little bits, but I had the feeling that this place was determined to sell them, no matter how stale. I tried five flavors, and could only stomach the passionfruit. Can't even remember what else I tried other than chocolate, as they were completely unremarkable, mostly because the flavors were tired and stale with gummy textures and powdery finish. The young Asian woman who waited on me never cracked a smile and only said a word or two. She looked terribly depressed and I felt sorry for her.

                          On a warm afternoon, I would have expected more foot traffic here in the after school hours. Maybe it was good at one time, but I couldn't say that now. It has the feeling of being on its last legs. I did buy a small size with two flavors, one of them passionfruit. Out in the car, I offered it to my mother. She took a taste, and said she didn't want any more.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                            daveena May 7, 2008 09:44 PM

                            I went back last week for the first time in a few months and got two flavors I'd really enjoyed before - the ginger and the yogurt - ginger was good, but the yogurt had a really unpleasant gumminess to it as well.

                          2. VanessaItalyinSF May 9, 2008 03:35 PM

                            Has anyone tried Gelato Milano in Berkeley? How would you say it compares to this place? I find that Gelato Milano has the only gelato that is remotely similar to what I usually have in Italy. The Italian Bay Area community usually agrees- when we find gelato it usually has one of two issues: Either the taste is completely off, or the texture is. Often, it is both. This is certainly true of Gelato at Naia, and at many other places claiming they have gelato. Gelato Milano was the first place where we could find a good balance of taste and texture- and I find the gelato there very good. Before I hike all the way to Oakland (I live in Palo Alto) I would like to know if you have any insight on how they compare. Thanks!

                            -----
                            Gelato Milano (CLOSED)
                            2170 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: VanessaItalyinSF
                              Robert Lauriston May 9, 2008 03:42 PM

                              I thought the sorbetti at Milano were great. The texture of the gelati seemed right but I didn't care for most of the flavors.

                              It changed hands in January. The new owners renamed it Almare. I haven't been there since.

                              I also like La Copa Loca in SF. It's not spectacular, just comparable to your average neighborhood gelateria in Italy.

                              Gelato discussion: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/436562

                              -----
                              Almare Gelato Italiano
                              2170 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                eeblet May 25, 2008 10:57 AM

                                I went to Almare shortly after they took over - everything tasted about the same as when it was Milano, although the person working behind the counter (not an owner or cook) said they're doing everything differently and they've got an Italian chef hand-making everything in the back. Maybe so... but it tasted the same to me!

                            2. Robert Lauriston Oct 19, 2013 05:29 PM

                              Finally got around to trying this place. Almond was excellent, hazelnut very good, tasted the pistachio and didn't care for it.

                              Seems very similar to a normal gelato place in Italy.

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