My Italian teacher Fabio comes fortnightly and for an hour we discuss what’s been going on in our (mainly my) world for the past two weeks. We talk food a lot. He’s been a loyal follower of my blog for as long as I’ve known him and like all my Italian friends knows a lot about food, especially Italian food. And of course writing the blog, food is a big focus of my thoughts. From time to time we talk about which is our favourite gelateria in London. For a long time we’ve both named Gelupo at the top but Fabio surprised me a couple of weeks ago by saying it had dropped down a little for him, to No.3, and his top two were my local Gelateria Danieli (where co-owner Carlo is from Sicily like Fabio) and Amorino. I agreed with Danieli but added La Gelatiera in Covent Garden as another favourite of mine.
I was slightly surprised by his choice of Amorino as I’ve always thought of it as a chain. It’s hard to get away from the idea that a ‘chain’ of anything is mediocre. But then I’ve had ice cream at Amorino in Nice, Deauville and Florence – they started in Italy in 2002 and now have boutiques worldwide – and have always enjoyed it. They use only natural flavourings, nothing artificial and some organic produce. So, I decided I had to go to an Amorino in London soon. And today I passed one at a time when I was on the lookout for food and thus was presented with the ideal opportunity.
I was due to attend a course at Two Temple Place on Jazz & Art History with the brilliant Hotel Alphabet in the afternoon. I headed into London early enough to get some lunch before the course began at 2.00pm. It was very busy when I got to Covent Garden and I settled on a salad in Carluccio’s; mainly on account of my actually being able to get a seat and table! I’d only wanted a snack; not a meal. By a wonderful stroke of serendipity, a branch of Amorino was just opposite in Garrick Street. Thus, after my ‘healthy’ salad, I crossed the road and went into the gelateria.
I always have gelato in a cup; never a cone. This partly arises from once having spent five weeks in Rome and some of the gelatiere wouldn’t even offer ice cream in cones so I decided it wasn’t the done thing – when in Rome always ask for a cup. And the habit has stayed. But then I’m someone who never wants bread or biscuits with cheese – I want to taste the cheese on its own. So it makes sense to taste ice cream on its own too.
There was a choice of 4 or 5 sizes and I went for the smallest at £3.70. It was a pretty good size though; perhaps a medium size in some other places. How many flavours could I have, I asked the girl behind the counter. As many as I wanted, she replied. Gosh! Well, I’d never been told that before. Sometimes a small cup is strictly one flavour; occasionally you might be allowed two. But as many as I liked! Well, I certainly had to have more than one! So I chose three: hazelnut-chocolate, raspberry and pistachio.
They had macarons too, which looked good, but I resisted those. I ordered a macchiato and was given my ice cream and told to take a seat and she’d bring my coffee.
It was a generous helping of ice cream. I tucked in. Wow! It really was very good. I loved the pistachio, which had a few whole pistachios in it – and of course no colouring, so a natural colour. The chocolate-hazelnut was like a gelato version of Turin’s famous gianduiotto and absolutely fabulous. The raspberry a gorgeous flavour with that slight ‘raspberry’ tartness and not too sweet. I thought the ice cream a little denser, less light and soft than many I’ve had, but none the worse for it. It really is superb ice cream.
I seem to have got into a new habit of ordering a macchiato with ice cream and this was a perfect one: a good espresso served with a little foam on top. There are 12 Amorino boutiques in London, from Ealing in the West to Stratford in the East and a number in central London. Find one! And enjoy some fabulous Italian ice cream.