A tour of Italian milkshakes, biscotti, tortes, and brioche — it's enough to make our sugar-coated hearts pitter-patter with joy (and, perhaps, cardiovascular distress). The last time we saw third-generation gelato maker Silvana Vivoli, of the esteemed Vivoli gelateria in Florence, she taught us how to spot authentic gelato. This time, she's taking us on a tour of her favorite local sweet spots. And if you can't make it to Florence, Vivoli recently opened an outpost at Macy's Herald Square in NYC.
1. Black Cherry Milkshake at Il Chiosco del Frappé
Viale della Giovine Italia; no phone
Black cherry is one of my favorite flavors, and one of my indulgences in Florence is an Amarena (black cherry) milkshake at this kiosk. They use a mandoline to shave down a large block of ice and combine the ice with skim milk and cherries that have been macerated in sugar. They serve in a large glass with a spoon and a straw with a wide opening. You use the straw until you hit the large cherries at bottom, then dig in with the spoon!
2. Brioche alla Crema at I Dolci di Marco
Via Gioberti 21;+39-055-660439
The decadent brioche at I Dolci di Marco is one of my favorites. The process to make a brioche is quite time-intensive and requires delicate handling of the dough. This brioche is very well made. It is perfectly caramelized on the crust, and the middle is a thick cream custard. The true flavors of the custard come through with every bite.
3. Occhio di Bue at Caffè Neri
Via Antonio Gramsci 809; +39-055-452696
Caffè Neri is where I head for all my biscotti needs. All the cookies are made simply with minimal ingredients, without colorings or additives. For this reason, the cookies have a wonderful texture — moist and crumbly. My favorite is Occhio di Bue (bull's eye). It is a butter cookie sandwich with marmalade in the middle — similar in construction to a linzer tart. They vary the marmalades, but my top picks are apricot and blackberry.
4. Pistocchi Classic at Torta Pistocchi
Via del Ponte di Mezzo 20;+39-055-0516939
Torta Pistocchi is a signature cake shop in Florence, which has been around for more than 20 years. The only thing they make are perfect dark chocolate cakes. The cakes, similar in texture to a ganache, are made with the highest quality dark chocolate (a few different varieties are used) and cream. No eggs, butter, or flour. They are stored in the refrigerator to maintain their quality. I am a fan of cherry, pear, and orange, but my favorite is Pistocchi Classic, which is just chocolate.
5. Crema Caminia at Caminia
Viale Donato Giannotti, 29r; +39-055-6810651
My good friend Alberto named his gelateria after his daughters Camilla and Lavinia. I go for his signature flavor, Crema Caminia. It is an ode to the classic Florentine flavor created by Bountalenti, a famous Medici-era architect credited with creating the first frozen dessert ever. The flavor Bountalenti created was essentially a cream custard. Alberto's flavor is a take on crema, made with cream, eggs, and a special ingredient I can't divulge. When I am not eating my own gelati, I go here for this flavor.