5 venues were included in a phase 1 Gelato Tour: Mia Francesa, Penguin, Caffe Gelato, Settimana Cafe, and Ice Dreams. All listed flavors were tasted "side-by-side". The notes, in order of TASTING, not RANKING...
Mia Francesca: smooth but a bit "thin" texture. Brighter taste than CG.
Caffe Gelato: THicker... subdued taste... kind of a distracting "powdery" backtexture.
Mia Francesca was the favorite for pistachio. Tasted after about an hour in the fridge, very nice thicker texture and the brighter taste
Penguin: the very creamy "penguin" texture (no other gelato has this appearance... almost "icy" yet still has a creamy congealed texture. Is this hazelnut flavor? somehow tastes a bit strange, not bad, just not that identifiable as hazelnut.
On later tasting with a bit more time in the freezer this texture had hardened a bit and was more enjoyable. A medium-distant #2 to Settimana's.
Caffee Gelato: "deeply flavored... make that powerfully strong flavored... not sure I like it, but it sure is strong..." On 2nd tasting, just seems too overpoweringly flavored.
Settimana Cafe: "detectable 'bits' of hazelnut... pleasant flavor lingers.
None of these hazelnuts were extremely impressive (like a New York artisanal gelato), but the Settimana was the favorite.
CHOCOLATE. This was diverse tasting as Mia Francesca had a white chocolate, a very dark chocolate from Caffe Gelato, Settimana kind of midway between milk and dark. Penguin closer to dark.
Caffe Gelato: a somewhat annoyingly thick and slippery texture. ... solid 'darker chocolate' flavor. Tasted again w/ vanilla just seemed VERY dark flavor, almost bitter.
Tasted after more time in the fridge, texture was more "rubbery". Just not interesting.
Penguin: 1st taste: "That same unusual Penguin texture again"... "not as interesting taste as CG"... after an hour in the fridge, just not interesting flavor.
Settimana: 1st tasting: "definitely the taste favorite... probably the favorite of ALL the gelatos tasted so far..." Tasted later, definitely tends to the "milk chocolate" side, delicate mild flavor. The favorite chocolate though quite mild.
Extra: Mia Francesca white chocolate: 1st taste: "..delicate, subdued, not unpleasant just not that interesting. Initially mistook for vanilla. There's such a thing as TOO "white chocolatey", and if given the choice I'd always opt for too mild over too overpowering....
Tasted later: the White choc from Mia Fran made a better impression. Brighter taste... very nice actually.
Of the chocolates, the Settimana and Mia Francesca were our clear favorites
VANILLA. The Italian Vanilla Panna from CG, the Italian Vanilla from MFran, and the regular vanilla from Penguin.
Caffe Gelato: "... yummy, bright flavor... a bit 'rubbery' quality to the texture.... favorite of the CG's so far"
Penguin: "... an unusual flavor, can't identify it... not really unpleasant, just not what I associate as vanilla..."
Mia Francesca: "... nice texture... but not crazy about it either..."
Second tasting around the CG texture was something like "very cold Cool Whip... not unpleasant, but kind of rubbery"... taste still bright. The Mia Fran just made a better impression 2nd time around and texture much more appealing than CG. Penguin seemed better, but with an unfocused flavor. Favorite was Mia Francesca here.
STRACHIATELLA. (Vanilla w/ chocolate bits).
Ice Dreams: "... luscious flavor... lingers, lovely... walking away the favorite flavor in the tasting so far...be sure to get numerous chunks of the chocolate slivers as it definitely has a different taste w/o the chocolate pieces...
Caffe Gelao: "... thicker, rubbery texture... ID was more interesting...
2nd tasting: "... Ice Dreams Strachitella is profound..."
BACCIO. (Hazelnut / Chocolate mixture)
Caffe Gelato: "...Very strong taste... very strong..."
Ice Dreams (regular): "... fabulous... do I like it as well as their Strachiatella? They are both great but the regular baccio is just a bit more profound than the strach... the favorite of the entire tasting so far..."
Ice Dreams (white choc baccio): "... has some annoying round objects in it... (avoid these)... on closer inspection they appear to be... macademias ?... so frozen the flavoring is basically gone... or maybe hazelnuts ?.... Overall quite tasty but first go around narrowly favor the ice dreams reg baccio and strachitella over their white choc boccio.
On 2nd tasting, the ID reg Boccio was the favorite vs. the also very tasty ID white choc which would be good for a somewhat milder boccio flavor.
Single favorite gelatos of the tasting: Ice Dreams reg Boccio and Strachitella.
BTW, cannot speak for the origins of these products. Ice Dreams, Penguin, and Caffe Gelato all appear to produce their own product. I believe that Mia Francesca and Settimana feature products from an outside gelateria, but not sure.
Mia Francesca (3300 ish N. Clark), Penguin (2700 block W. Lawrence), Caffe Gelato (W. Division just west of Damen), Settimana Cafe (W. Division just west of Damen), and Ice Dreams (Clark, 2 blks north of Diversey)