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Best Long Island gelato: Critic's picks

Mango and coconut, strawberry and pistachio and chocolate and vanilla gelato at Dolce Gelateria in Franklin Square. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Gelato is Italian for ice cream. In commercial parlance, the two terms are used interchangeably, but true gelato is produced with less butterfat and less air ("overrun"), making it leaner but denser, and is served at a higher temperature, making it creamier. Even if you've eaten your fill of ice cream, there's always room for gelato. Here are Long Island shops that make it on the premises:

Dei Coltelli Gelato & Sorbet

615 Willis Ave., Williston Park

When Allen Aingorn first started making gelato on Willis Avenue nearly two decades ago, the frozen Italian treat was a rarity on Long Island, produced by only a handful of bakeries and restaurants. Now there are dozens of gelaterias across Nassau and Suffolk, but none are better than Gelateria dei Coltelli, which, in 2023, moved into a sparkling new space a block north of the previous store. 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. Here 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 

Chocolate and espresso chip gelato at Gelateria dei Coltelli in...

Chocolate and espresso chip gelato at Gelateria dei Coltelli in Williston Park. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Gemelli Gelato

139 West Montauk Hwy., Hampton Bays

Set back from Montauk Highway on a gentle slope, Gemelli Gelato is one of the Island's prettiest spots for enjoying ice cream. Sit at a picnic table while the kids run around (and drip) on the expansive lawn. Owners Anthony DePaola and Charlie Ferrante bring a youthful verve to the centuries-old art of gelato, creating flavors such as passion fruit, rainbow cookie, apple pie and white chocolate with raspberries. Even the cones are inventive: In addition to wafer, sugar and waffle, Gemelli stocks red velvet cones and birthday cake cones. More info: 631-594-5600, gemelligelatohamptonbays.com

Dolce Gelateria

20 Franklin Ave., Franklin Square and 2942 Merrick Rd., Bellmore

This spot's two locations make small batches of gelato fresh every day. Flavors range from chocolate, pistachio and strawberry to fig-honey Snickers and rainbow cookie. There are also shakes made with gelato and pastries from local Italian bakeries including brioches buns that are just waiting to be filled with gelato for the popular Sicilian breakfast sandwich treat. To drink: Italian sodas and espresso drinks. More info: dolcegelatonyc.com

Sant Ambroeus

30 Main St., Southampton; 66 Newtown Lane, East Hampton

Sant Ambroeus is the East End's gelato central, outposts of a Manhattan ristorante-gelateria itself inspired by the original cafe that opened in Milan in 1931. The surroundings may have an aura of hauteur but the gelato is pure, unadulterated joy. The coffee flavor is done with house-brewed espresso. Fresh banana goes into the banana gelato; the result puts the fruit itself to shame. Also recommended: tangy passion fruit, grapefruit and lemon, and the lush chocolate, hazelnut and vanilla. More info: 631-283-1233, santambroeus.com

Sant Ambroeus in Southampton offers some of Long Island's best...

Sant Ambroeus in Southampton offers some of Long Island's best gelati. Credit: Doug Young

ViAle Gelateria

424 Sunrise Hwy., Lynbrook

Soon after Anna Franchi moved from Ferrara, an Italian pasticceria powerhouse, she set up this spotless shop where she makes small batches of gelato that hew to Italian standards. She offers about two dozen flavors every day. The variety rotates, but the resonantly nutty pistachio gelato is a must-order. Dress it up with chocolate sauce or a sprinkling of crunchy little meringue bits. Even the slim, elegant wafer cones are imported from Italy. More info: 516-442-0094

Caffe Italia 

1745 Deer Park Ave., Deer Park

Owner Michael Costigliola doesn't understand the American penchant for gelato “with crazy stuff in it.” After all, what could be better than vanilla with real vanilla beans, coffee with freshly pulled espresso, strawberry with fresh strawberries, pistachio with nuts from Sicily? Try a big scoop of gelato sandwiched inside a split brioche bun. More info: 631-667-0201, caffeitaliany.com

Leonetti Pastry Shop

82-16 Glen Cove Rd., Greenvale

Saverio and Stella Leonetti used to make gelato back in Bari, Italy. Here, on Long Island, they continue the family tradition at this Greenvale bakery. The gelato here is creamy and clean tasting, made frequently to ensure freshness. There are usually around 20 flavors on offer — among them, excellent hazelnut, pistachio, coffee and chocolate — plus a number of fruit sorbetti. Enjoy your scoop of choice at one of the little tables, and pretend you're in Italy. More info: 516-625-8242, leonettipastryshop.com

Chocolate Gelato at Leonetti Pastry Shop in Greenvale.

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

Spiga Bakery

680 Merrick Rd., Bellmore

Spiga's homemade gelati are given their own corner in the sparkling free-standing location. The most popular flavors 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 transport you to Sicily. More info: 516-557-2688, spigabakery.com

Gran Caffe

31 Hempstead Ave., Lynbrook

After more than four decades as Lynbrook's go-to place to go for a quick coffee and an Italian pastry or watching the Italian soccer on TV, Gran Caffe turned gelateria. Among the 20 flavors, you will usually see chocolate, vanilla, coffee, hazelnut plus mango, strawberry, melon and lemon sorbetto. More info: 516-887-2878, grancaffegelateria.com

La Carraia

2326 Hempstead Tpke., East Meadow

And why wouldn’t the first New York satellite of Florence’s renowned La Carraia Gelateria open in East Meadow? If the location, along the Hempstead Turnpike doesn’t exactly bring to mind the Uffizi, it is next door to the original Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace. There are about 60 flavors in rotation here, two dozen on any given day. Besides standards such as hazelnut, pistachio, fiore di latte, and stracciatella, you’ll also find Amarena cherry, chocolate-orange and La Carraia symphony, vanilla gelato with crushed biscotti, dark chocolate and candied orange. There are vegan flavors, including dairy-free dark chocolate gelato, plus fruit sorbetti. More info: 516-226-3580

La Carraia symphony (crushed biscotti, dark chocolate and candied orange)...

La Carraia symphony (crushed biscotti, dark chocolate and candied orange) and Amarena cherry gelato at At La Carraia Gelateria in East Meadow. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

International Delight Cafe

322 Bedford Ave., Bellmore

International Delight Cafe has been scooping since 1999. The frozen treat here has the density and creaminess of gelato, but the vast selection of flavors — more than 60 — as well as their extravagant nature — reads more like ice cream. American innovations such as batter blast, brownie cheesecake, bubble gum repose next to Italian classics like strawberry, spumoni and stracciatella. More info: 516-409-5772, idcbellmore.com 

Stellina Bakery & Cafe

14 Cold Spring Rd, Syosset, 34 Audrey Ave., Oyster Bay

In 2022, the Cardinali Bakeries of Syosset and Oyster Bay were brought into the Stellina family of eateries (Stellina Ristorante, Sabrina's and The Wine Line in Oyster Bay, Casa Stellina in Farmingdale), but the quality of the wares has not dimmed. If anything, chef-partner Fabrizio Facchini has made everything even more deliciously Italian. That certainly goes for the gelato. Among the two dozen flavors you’ll find gianduja, zuppa Inglese, zabaglione, croccantino (caramel with nuts) and dolce di latte, an Italian take on the Latin American dulce de leche. Enjoy your gelato, with a well-pulled espresso — or, enjoy your gelato “drowned” in that espresso in an affogato — in the bakery’s little cafe area. More info:  stellinabakery.com

Martoni

245 Main St., Northport

Most Long Island gelaterias import ingredients from Italy; this little slice of Italy in Northport imports the actual gelato — direct from Turin. Flavors include hazelnut, mint-chocolate chip, stracciatella, cookies and cream, sea-salt caramel and lemon sorbetto. More info: 631-923-1772, martonigourmet.net

Southold General

54180 Main Rd., Southold

This swanky cafe-market opened in 2021 with owners who also run North Fork Table & Inn. To head the sweets here, they tapped none other than NYC pastry superstar François Payard. He's moved on but the gelato still has serious cred. Alongside traditional flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut and pistachio, you might find strawberry-ginger, candied peach, passion fruit and tiramisu. More info: 631-458-1275, southoldgeneral.com

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