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Gelato on Long Island: The best places to get it

Even if you've eaten your fill of ice cream this summer, there's always room for gelato. Italy's creamier cousin to the American classic long ago established a beachhead on Long Island, but this year it launched an invasion. Five new gelaterias have opened in the last year, bringing Italian chill to places like Albertson, Franklin Square and Great Neck.

“It’s a happy business,” says Salvatore Potestio, who makes the gelato at Dolce. “And it’s growing,” added Francesco Taormina of Cremoso.

Ice cream is made, of course, with a mix of cream and milk (and, sometimes, eggs). Federal law requires that ice cream have at least 10 percent butterfat content. Super-premium is 14 to 16 percent. And that can rise to 20 percent or more, as in Häagen-Dazs butter pecan and Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby.

Gelato is leaner, weighing in, typically, between 6 and 9 percent. Since there’s less butterfat, the flavors are heightened. And since it's served about 10 degrees warmer, it's smoother than ice cream too. But it's every bit as versatile in terms of flavor. 

Michael Costigliola, owner of Caffe Italia in Deer Park, sources hazelnuts harvested north of Alba, in the Piedmont region of Italy, for his gelato. His pistachios come from trees near a small town in Sicily. Both lead to rich gelati, two of his 25 flavors.

“It’s the old-fashioned way,” Costigliola says. "From small companies and producers in Italy."

“We make everything fresh,” said Charles Ferrante, co-owner of Gemelli Gelato in Hampton Bays. The 25 flavors in his current repertoire rotate, with each batch lasting maybe two days.

Their gelati are among the best in Nassau and Suffolk. Here are a lucky 13 places to taste those and more.

+39 Italian Eatery

Hazelnut, vanilla and chocolate, and pistachio gelato at
Credit: Marisol Diaz-Gordon

+39 Italian Eatery (16 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck): You can stop at +39 Italian Eatery for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus snacks and desserts. It's the offspring of La Nonna Bella restaurant in Garden City. After panini or pizzas, focaccia or fried or baked calzones, gelato is next. Or come in for gelati alone. You'll spot them being made right out in the open, each flavor churned in its own serving tub. There usually are six flavors. Mainstays are pistachio, chocolate and strawberry. If you're here for breakfast, have a brioche split and filled with gelato: a Sicilian classic. More info: 516-918-9200, 39eatery.com

Caffe Italia

Pistachio and chocolate gelato served on a soft
Credit: Daniel Brennan

Caffe Italia (1745 Deer Park Ave., Deer Park): Brioche con gelato is one of the specialties at Caffe Italia, where you can order fine panini and Belgian waffles, too. And it's hard to skip either the well-made espresso, cappuccino, macchiato or latte. Among the popular gelato flavors are hazelnut and stracciatella, or vanilla laced with chocolate. Also recommended: Amarena cherry, coconut, salted caramel and banana swirled with Nutella. Gelato milkshakes and affogato (gelato doused with hot espresso), too. Lemon sorbet is a tangy chaser. More info: 631-667-0201, caffeitaliany.com

Cardinali Bakery

Raspberry, mango and mint chocolate chip flavored gelato
Credit: Daniel Brennan

Cardinali Bakery (14 Cold Spring Rd., Syosset): Cardinali Bakery makes you a steady customer with its breads, whether stuffed, seeded semolina, baguette, ficelle or any of the rolls. The pastries and cookies also are very good and the cakes invariably decorated with flair. There's a small cafe here, too, so you can stick around and snack. Near the entrance are the gelato bins, holding 24 flavors. The fruit gelati are especially bright and refreshing, whether blueberry, watermelon, lemon or orange. Super stracciatella and chocolate. More info: 516-496-2489, cardinali.net

Dei Coltelli Gelato & Sorbet

Mint chip gelato with chocolate shavings, hazelnut gelato
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Dei Coltelli Gelato & Sorbet (591 Willis Ave., Williston Park): This corner of Willis Avenue has been dispensing homemade gelato since 2005, but in February 2017, the store got a new name and a spiffy makeover. Allen Aingorn had been a partner in the store's former incarnation, Baci Gelato, but as of February he's sole owner of dei Coltelli. The name (pronounced "day coal-TELL-ee") honors Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, the Sicilian chef who first popularized Italian ice cream at his Café Procope, founded in Paris in 1686. Long Islander Aingorn fell for gelato when, in his early 20s, he was playing professional soccer in Italy and, in his off hours, would hang out at his team owner's gelateria. At dei Coltelli, virtually all the ingredients (except for fresh fruit) are imported from Italy. Pistachio, made with Sicilian nuts, is particularly fine. Other popular flavors are bacio (chocolate-hazelnut), stracciatella (cream-flavored ice cream laced with dark chocolate) and salted caramel. Dei Coltelli also makes elegant gelato cakes and gelato pops. More info: 516-801-1706, deicoltelli.com

Cremoso Gelato & Café

Amaretto and kiss gelato, Cremosa, Albertson, Aug. 19,
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Cremoso Gelato & Café (960 Willis Ave., Albertson): Cremoso Gelato & Café is tucked into Basil and Prime Fine Foods & Meats, a market for Italian cured meats, cheeses, pastas and prepared foods. There's a butcher shop, too. Cremoso has been here about six months and is the work of Francesco Taormina and Amadeo Orlando, who made gelati in Milan. Count on 14 to 16 flavors daily, notably pistachio, hazelnut, "Baci," or chocolate kisses and mascarpone cheesecake with strawberries. More info: 516-493-9966

Dolce Gelateria

Mango and coconut, strawberry and pistachio and chocolate
Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Dolce Gelateria (220 Franklin Ave., Franklin Square): Salvatore Potestio has been making gelati for 15 years and you'll regularly find 24 flavors in this charming, two-month-old shop, decorated in shades of mint and chocolate. Highlights are stracciatella, pistachio, chocolate, strawberry, tiramisu, rainbow cookie, and a combination of chocolate and coffee. Potestio also occasionally creates gelato made with cannoli cream. And he's open to suggestions about your favorites. More info: 516-673-4994

Fiorello Dolce

Fiorello Dolce in Huntington gelato comes in many
Credit: Fiorello Dolce Patisserie/Gerard Fioravanti

Fiorello Dolce (57 Wall St., Huntington): Fiorello Dolce, where a great croquembouche signals the Christmas season and where the "frenagel," a cross between a bagel and a French doughnut, was created, also is a destination for outstanding pastries, cakes, cookies and, yes, gelato. Gerard Fioravanti offers 10 flavors, all excellent. Especially notable are his stracciatella and hazelnut. And, he said, "s'mores gelato has been flying out the door. I make more of that than anything else." More info: 631-424-0803, fiorellodolce.com

Gemelli Gelato

Ice cream server adds rainbow sprinkles to three
Credit: Daniel Brennan

Gemelli Gelato (139 W. Montauk Hwy., Hampton Bays): Gemelli Gelato attracts you with its gelati as well as live music on some Saturday nights. Charles Ferrante's selection reaches 25 flavors, which are rotated into the daily menu. Customer favorites include banana bread, "dumpster dive" with assorted candies, and "UFO," meaning "unidentified frozen objects." Consider chocolate-peanut butter gelato with brownies, rum raisin, cookies and cream, pistachio, hazelnut, s'mores and caramel with chocolate-covered pretzels. More info: 631-594-5600, gemelligelatohamptonbays.com

Gran Caffe Gelateria

Homemade gelato is the main event at Gran
Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Gran Caffe Gelateria (31 Hempstead Ave., Lynbrook): This sleek, sharp gelateria offers 18 flavors. They're headed by seasonal fruit gelati, which currently mean cantaloupe and watermelon. Mango also is a winner. Then, you can dive into vanilla, mint chocolate chip, and zuppa inglese, hazelnut and tiramisu, pineapple and strawberry. Have yours in a cone, a cup, a milkshake. Gran Caffe also is a local destination for coffee, especially cappuccino; and croissants, pastries and sorbetto. More info: 516-887-2878, grancaffegelateria.com

Leonetti Pastry Shop

Chocolate Gelato at Leonetti Pastry Shop in Greenvale
Credit: Marisol Diaz-Gordon

Leonetti Pastry Shop (82-16 Glen Cove Rd., Greenvale): Leonetti Pastry Shop has been in Greenvale since 1985. The traditional Italian bakery and cafe entices you with espresso and cappuccino, croissants, cannoli, napoleons, tarts and cakes. And the gelati flavors total 24. "Believe it or not, we sell everything," with all flavors popular, said Stella Leonetti. The headliners include hazelnut, coffee, "Baci" cream, chocolate and seasonal fruits. This is an easy place to spend part of a leisurely afternoon. More info: 516-625-8242, leonettipastryshop.com

Sant Ambroeus

Sant Ambroeus in Southampton offers some of Long
Credit: Doug Young

Sant Ambroeus (30 Main St., Southampton): Sant Ambroeus is the Hamptonian scion of the Manhattan eateries. It opened on Main Street in Southampton in 1992. The dining room has stayed handsome and dishes such as vitello tonnato and carpaccio are among the essentials. The cookies and cakes also are appealing. But it's the gelati showcase in the front that makes you want to come with a group. Flavors range from delectable passion fruit and grapefruit to hazelnut and fior di latte, a creamy flavor reminiscent of fresh mozzarella. More info: 631-283-1233, santambroeus.com

Spiga Bakery

Spiga Bakery's brioche filled with three scoops of
Credit: Newsday/Rebecca Cooney

Spiga Bakery: The two Spiga bakeries, located at 2680 Merrick Rd. in Bellmore and 4636 Merrick Rd. in Massapequa, sell first-class breads, cakes, pies, and pastries and doughnuts. Co-owner Robert Caravello also oversees a selection of 25 gelati, showcasing about 10 each day. The most popular are salted caramel, hazelnut and pistachio. The newest addition is fig gelato, made with purple figs. It's the right filling for one of the bakeries' doughnuts, too. Spiga also makes an evocative gelato-filled brioche that will make you renew your passport. More info: spigabakery.com

ViAle Gelateria

At ViAle Gelateria, they make luscious gelatos, but
Credit: Bruce Gilbert

ViAle Gelateria (424 Sunrise Hwy., Lynbrook): ViAle Gelateria has been bringing vivid gelati to Long Island since 2015. Its display is a burst of color with especially vibrant, enticing flavors. Owner Anna Franchi moved to Long Island from Ferrara in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Her gelati include classic hazelnut, pistachio and vanilla, but also lavender, raspberry cheesecake, milk chocolate and a dark chocolate that, minus milk, is a soulful sorbetto -- and mandatory. More info: 516-442-0094

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