On a small quiet island in the middle of Paris, a cold war rages. It's French loyalists versus Italian insurgents - Berthillon ice cream versus Amorino gelato.
Amorino first invaded Paris in the sweltering summer of 2002. Two Italians living in France dared to open a gelateria on the home turf of ice cream aristocracy Berthillon on the tiny Ile St. Louis. Their voluptuously undulating gelatos displayed brazenly in an expansive glass case might be a common sight elsewhere in the world but are a striking contrast to the user-unfriendly cone counter at Berthillon. There, wondrous ice cream and sorbets are plainly held in deep, dark metal containers - almost purposely disguising the treasures within.
And the Amorino cones themselves are stunning. I could easily believe culinary anthropologists if they told me that ice cream was essential to earliest human survival - based on my own hard-wired desire tripped at the mere sight of one of these creamy confections.
But how do they taste? I recently tried five chocolate-based gelato flavours on a single cone - at Amorino you're welcome to have as many flavours as you want. I had Ciccolatto/Dark Chocolate, Stracciatella/Chocolate Chip, Bacio/Chocolate Hazelnut, Nutella, and a seasonal flavour of chocolate ice cream with crumbled orange cake. Initially they were notably creamy with a dense, full mouth-feel - with distinct, intense flavours. The chocolate with orange cake was my favourite - with a rich cocoa aroma and taste - offset by pleasantly bitter zest in the cake - which itself provided interest to the texture. And as I've admitted previously, I do like stuff in my ice cream. But as much as I enjoyed the experience, I found that the gelatos overall lacked depth to their flavours to sustain them beyond the initial excitement.
On a Foccacina - a sweet egg bread creation that redefines the ice cream sandwich - I tasted Frutti di Bosco/"Fruit of the Woods"/wild berries sorbet, Yogurt gelato, and Frutto della Passione/passion-fruit sorbet. The sorbets were vibrant at first taste, but again lost interest soon after. However, the surprise came with the yogurt gelato - an interesting and delicious balance of sweet, acid, and a barest trace of salt - an element you find makes the best caramel and chocolate that much better. The yogurt gelato is actually the favourite flavour of all the gelato and sorbetto sculptors at the St. Germain location that I visited.
Amorino cones and cups come in three sizes - mine was the mere mortal medium. They suggest no more than six flavours at once to best appreciate their tastes. Their tip is to request all of your flavours together - different gelatos have different consistencies - and those can vary each day and even more throughout the day - only your sculptor knows from working them - from the feel through the paddle. If you request all your flavours from the start, they can construct your cone with consistencies in mind for optimal structural integrity - with the densest gelatos at the center.
Their gelato is made throughout the day at each location except Ile St. Louis and the Marais which are too small for production facilities. The kitchen in St. Germain supplies those two - and is the largest and busiest of all the boutiques.
By the way, Amorino stays open all summer - no traditional French vacation closure.
This is the second in a summer series on ice cream in Paris.
Each post is dedicated to a charity that works in the fight against worldwide hunger. Please donate at least the price of a single cone now to UNICEF. Thank you.