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Toscanini's vs. Christina's

Pros? Cons? Your favorite?

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  1. Used to be Toscanini's for their grapenut but now it is Christina's for their sweet cream.
    I feel that since T's branched out [selling to local stores etc] their quality diminished. Also, to me but this is purely conjecture- they seem more sweet and cloying than they had before.

    Part of it too is attitude amongst servers...
    Christinia's is pretty steady- very businessy. People doing their job, Professionally.
    But heck- it is an ice cream shoppe! They are nice but a little more heart would be lovely to see. After all- kids so look forward to a cone there!

    Toscanini's can vary depending on depth of young person hired. Sometimes very cool, sometimes too cool.

    As far as the real deal, bottom line-
    To my not expert ice cream palate- Christinia's uses more authentic flavors, their ice cream is creamier & there seems to be more pure ingredients. I think their flavors are more unique and interesting.

    This of course, is just my taste buds talking and I am not an ice cream pro. My daughter is however, and she votes for Christinia's.

    The neighborhood is nicer too, to hang out while eating your ice cream. Too bad for all the construction in front of Toscanini's because it is off putting.

    Both are pretty quality. Maybe it should come down to- do they offer the flavor you like best?

    1 Reply
    1. re: miiki

      I agree--they are both top quality and to a large extent it depends what flavor you want (and how you like each one's interpretation of your favorites). That said, I'm in the Toscanini's camp. Partly because of the service--I find the employees at T's to be a trip, really sweet for the most part--and at Christina's it's ALL business and to my mind quite grim. Get in-get the hell out (and don't let your curiosity get the best of you--there's an official two-tastes-per-customer policy. I mean a <I>policy</I>!).
      Make no mistake: they are the two best ice cream purveyors around (my physically distant next favorite is the Juice Bar on Nantucket) by a wide, wide margin.
      Christina's had a fantastic Turkish Delight for years. Been gone for a while now.
      T's has a bourbon-black pepper flavor lately that is ridiculously good.

    2. Christina's. Tosci's lost my business when they started serving chronically icy ice cream, and then had that whole tax debacle. The seating/atmosphere at Tosci's is better, of course. The ice cream (and the free water) is better at Christina's.

      1. I frankly doubted that this debate would have any traction, as it's been hashed about much before. But if we're talking about it, I'd have to say that Tosci's is a clear favorite. I'm not wild about the service, but the ice cream is better, has clearer flavors, and a much better mouthfeel. Also, their hot fudge is state-of-the-art, and they whip their own cream. A sundae at Tosci's is as good as it gets.

        1 Reply
        1. re: winedude

          I wasn't able to try the other places on my recent trip, but I can vouch for the hot fudge and whipped cream at Toscanini's. I love love love places that make their own whipped cream. Though I have to say that the guy put less whipped cream on mine than another server put on my friend's sundae, and when I pouted about it he didn't fix it!
          I mean I was joking, but only halfway.

        2. Oh yeah, as a second choice to Toscanini's, I'd take Herrell's over Christina, BTW.

          11 Replies
          1. re: winedude

            Emack and Bolio's
            JP Licks
            in that order for me. Like them all, really.

            1. re: hungryone

              Geez, I always wince when I hear Emack & Bolio up there -- I just never thought their base mix made the cut. And yet hounds with otherwise discriminating ice cream palates often include them. I would honestly like to hear a little patter about specific appeals of E&B...?

              I mean, ice cream, I like 'em all. Herrell's is my top though. Also enjoying Richardsons over at the Davis Square theatre.

              1. re: Avid Rita

                hungryone's list includes JP Licks. This is a strongly discrediting factor.

                1. re: Luther

                  You would take the word of someone that likes Richardson's Ice Cream sitting at a movie theatre for who knows how long over JP Licks? It was on my list but not near the top. It has some good flavors. I think it is over rated in general. I think Christina's is way over rated but it's in Cambridge and seems to give it a leg up for reasons unknown.

                  1. re: hungryone

                    There is some virulent hating on this board towards JP Licks and I've never understood why. I can see not liking them as much as some others, tastes vary and all, but I truly don't get the violence of opinion about JP Licks.

                    1. re: Allstonian

                      Me either. Save your hate for Coldstone, man.

                      1. re: BostonCookieMonster

                        i second that. regardless of one's favorite being Emack, Jp licks, Toscanini's etc., be thankful we have such a range of choices and aren't dependent on coldstone...which seems to be trying ever so hard to invade all of boston ala starbucks.

                      2. re: Allstonian

                        Well, there are a lot of them, and they're only OK.

                        In JP we have them and Emack's (kind of) and I am not crazy about either of them. Usually we just get Toscanini's from the Co-op.

                        1. re: Allstonian

                          It makes me sad when I eat it. This is not the desired effect of ice cream.

                            1. re: Allstonian

                              It is very sweet and goopy, but not very fatty. It's like ice cream that's trying to be sorbet or something. I like when ice cream makes me feel fortified with dairy fat, not laden down with sugar.

              2. Both are delicious but I do like Christina's better. The flavors are more inventive and interesting. I shop at the spice shop which is connected to the ice cream shop and they use many of the spices, flavors and extracts that they sell. For instance I bought some highly concentrated and top quality vanilla and they told me it's what they use in the ice cream. I also think that they sell to many high end Chinese restaurants that offer ice cream for dessert such as ginger, coconut, mango and green tea. I hear the brunch at Toscanini's is really good but I have yet to go,

                1. I go to Toscanini's a lot more than Christina's simply because its closer to my house. But I think I like Christina's more. My favorite flavor at Christina's is the burnt sugar. It has a really great caramel flavor. I tried Toscanini's version of burnt sugar a couple weeks ago and maybe it was a bad batch but it tasted TOO burnt. I do like Toscanini's malted vanilla though.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: heypielady

                    Oh, see that's exactly why I like Toscanini's better. That burnt caramel ice cream is one of the great achievements of human civilization, in my opinion. Next to it, the Christina's version tastes like nothing. I tend to think the Toscanini's flavors are more intense in general, but my perception may be clouded by a burnt, sugary haze.

                    1. re: BostonCookieMonster

                      I went to Toscanini's last night and I thought of another pro: high flavor rotation. I don't have a favorite flavor when it comes to ice cream. Sure I have my standbys (mint chocolate chip, coffee) but I like to try a lot of different flavors. Last night it was hard to choose between yummy, interesting sounding or both (whoppers, coffee cardamom, tiny m&ms, caramel snap) I settled on chocolate molasses which was delicious. I often find chocolate ice cream too sweet and/or too rich but the molasses cut the chocolate's intensity.

                      Christina's certainly has a lot of flavors with a handful of specials but at Toscanini's you never know until you get there what they are offering. That could be a con for some but I like the element of surprise.

                    2. re: heypielady

                      Also, just fyi, i always thought burnt caramel and burnt sugar were two distinctly different flavors --not meant to be similar. That being said, burnt caramel is definitely my all time favorite, so I have to give the nod to Tosci's. Plus, as a PP said, their hot fudge and whipped cream are both delicious.

                    3. I'm not a fan of Christina's. I know it sounds like blasphemy, but I find that their base has TOO much butterfat and leaves my mouth with an unappealing coating. I find Tosci's to be the gold standard in ice cream--the perfect "chewy" texture, intense flavors, and as many free tastes as you'd like.

                      1. Neither.

                        Herrell's chocolate pudding ice cream tops anything from either of them.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: BobB

                          I used to love Herrell's, but they broke my heart in a single visit and I haven't been back since. Barmy and I stopped in for cones - he chose chocolate orange. I don't know how this happened, but the ice cream has apparently been made without any sweetening at all! I tasted it myself - it was weird, flat, and bitter-tasting. Not just a matter of "oh, this flavor isn't what I expected" - it tasted BAD. Worse, when Barmy went back to complain, the staff shrugged rather than apologizing, investigating, anything. As usual, poor customer service will cement a bad experience in one's mind - there's no way either of us will go there anymore.

                          1. re: Allstonian

                            Much as I like Herrell's ice cream, I've had service issues there as well, revolving around their notion that you must be a kid to get a kiddie scoop. Sorry, but I neither need to spend the extra money nor absorb the extra calories. And they were pretty nasty about it, too. Haven't been back there for this reason alone.

                            And in the Toscanini's vs. Christina's question, I'm firmly in the camp of the former. I find their ice cream to be richer with a better mouth feel and more intense flavor. Though I'm not too fond of seeing a restaurant fudge on its taxes like they did.

                        2. I am surprised at the comments on Christina's staff, I don't really get what people's issue with them (aside from the sample limit- which is not their choice but likely a mgmt decision, and more on that in a moment...) As long as they are not rude (which in my 10+ years of going there I have never experienced) what is the matter if they are business-like? They want to get people their ice cream in the most efficient manner...

                          As to sampling, I have never understood why people feel they deserve samples of ice cream, you don't get it of virtually any other product. I personally don't request samples, if I want to try a flavor, I get a small cone and if I don't like it I get a different flavor next time. I don't have a problem w/ other people sampling but it would irritate me as a customer to be waiting behind someone getting more than 1 or 2 samples, so I think a limit is fine.

                          All that being said, I prefer Toscanini's ice cream, but I like both a lot.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: mshillue

                            Im with you on that. I never ask for a sample and actually find it ebarrassing when people im with start asking for them... I will spend the $3-4 and if i dont like it, oh well. But to ask for more then 2 i think is just ridiculous.. How many samples do people ask for when there are "unlimited" ones? Why not just sample everything and then just say " nah im not really hungry for ice cream anymore" and leave..

                            1. re: hargau

                              Agreed - I sample only when it's a flavor I'm genuinely uncertain about, and then I either choose that or choose something else that I also had in mind. (i.e., I'll sample the smoked trout ice cream and either decide that I do want it or say, "No, I think I'll have the fudge ripple.") I really can't imagine needing to sample more than two flavors.

                              1. re: hargau

                                Not to mention, it clogs up the line when these idiots come in looking to sample 892375235 flavors of ice cream.

                                1. re: hargau

                                  I disagree wholeheartedly. One of the best things about ice cream in Boston is the openness of proprietors to give out tastes. It's one thing that you won't find elsewhere in the country. And Christina's stinginess on this matter only makes me dislike them more.

                                  1. re: pomodori pelati

                                    It's funny to see so much vehemence against the idea of samples on here! I'll ask for tastes because I am usually interested in the weird flavors--and then only to narrow down what I am going to order. I have myself asked for a third taste only once--and it happened to be at Christina's--and so I learned about their limit. Maybe everyone has a limit, I don't know. But I get a little bit of a get-'em-in-get-'em-out vibe in there already and this rule struck me the wrong way in that context.

                                    Live a little! Take the ice cream shops up on their offer of samples--when you are curious to find out if you really want a whole half-pint's worth of, say, Guinness on a cone--it's cheap for them, it sells their ice cream esp. risky flavors, and, if you don't stand there hemming and hawing over your decision (which plenty of people do without the aid of little plastic spoons), it takes half a second.

                                    (And, mshillue, I would observe that you are quite fond of samples outside of the ice cream realm!)

                                    1. re: lobst

                                      I'm sorry, I really have to pipe in here.

                                      3 tastes does seem perfectly acceptable if there's nobody in line behind you and you don't needlessly hem and haw. However... Having worked in retail food service, and eventually retail food service management when I was a teenager, there's a lot more to it than simply wanting to save 3 cents on samples, or just not be bothered with getting them.

                                      Firstly: It's usually the people who are going to get a lot of samples that are the first to complain when the line isn't moving fast because people are getting a lot of samples. You don't have to deal with the wrath of the other customers, the counter person does.

                                      Secondly: If you don't consistently enforce rules, you might as well not have them. For example: There was a customer with nobody behind them on a dead afternoon, and they seemed nice and really enjoyed the first 2 samples, so you let them have a couple more. The next time they walk in it's really busy. The employee uses their discretion and starts enforcing a sample limit. The customer that was given some leeway to the day before is going to be the first person to exasperatedly say "But, the other day, you let me have 4 samples!! This is ridiculous!" So you give them 4 samples to shut them up... The problem is that nothing pisses lots of people off more than seeing someone get something that they can't have. Then you've got a fiasco.

                                      This type of stuff happens all the time. It's kind of sad, but no good deed goes unpunished in retail food service. Glad I don't do that anymore.

                                      1. re: muscles_marinara

                                        ah, well, it certainly never occurred to me that they should have broken any rules for me. but perhaps that is clear, and your intention is more to discuss general issues of retail management.

                                        For myself, I hadn't known there was a rule until I asked, and, never having witnessed what I would consider sample abuse--impatient customer though I may be--it had never occurred to me that a place would need to establish a rule along these lines.

                                        and now I believe I have contributed all I have to offer on this highly controversial topic.

                                        and, I will add that whoever stirred up this nest had better be pretty good at trivia.

                              2. I love ice cream too much for my own good, but definitely put Christina's (all flavors), Herrells (malted vanilla, cocoa pudding, and pumpkin), Rancatore (Belmont only - Lexington has lame service and bad storage) and Tosci's (most flavors, especially hazelnut, hydrox, and grapenut in their own league.

                                FWIW, Emacks, Lizzy's, JP Licks, Richardsons, and Kimball Farms are all good and in the next tier for me - they all seem to have too much air and/or sugar in their product relative to the top tier - I also think the prepackaged Tosci's at Whole Foods falls here - it just seems like a different product to me. Ben & Jerry's belongs here too since they went crazy with the add-ins and decreased the butterfat following the Unilever acquisition several years ago.

                                To round out my list, I really like FarFar's on the South Shore the one time I had it and will put Brigham's Oreo up against any ice cream, any time - but only that flavor when fresh and properly stored (like at their retail outlets or at D'Agostino's, but NOT Stop N Shop)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: rlh

                                  love toscis caramel flavors and christina's mango. i'm still a fan of haagen daz rum raisin and dream about their boysenberry sherbet from many years ago.

                                2. Christina’s is definitely my favorite; their banana cinnamon is the best and the Grand Marnier is terrific with dessert.

                                  As for the service, I don’t understand where the negative comments are coming from; the staff has always been friendly. I moved away from Inman Sq, but I still go back to Christina’s to get quarts of ice cream and they always wrap it in foil to stay a little colder for the trip home.