Completed a 2nd round of gelato tasting over the past few days. Results are as follows:
New Flavors: In vanilla, the offerings from both AL Gelato and Ciao Bella were tasted side-by-side and are both excellent. AL's is a bit more delicate, CB's a bit more powerfully flavored, and narrowly our fave of the 2, but both very nice. AL was tasted from L'Appetito at Hancock Tower, CB's from Uncommon Ground in Wrigleyville.
In Chocolate, both AL and CB offer a dark chocolate gelato. We found both to be very powerfully flavored, almost too much so. AL's definitely gets our nod as it accompanied other flavors nicely whereas the CB's cocoa bitterness was enhanced alongside other flavors. But both would probably satisfy a dark chocolate jones, both texturally superb. Of the 6 chocolates in the entire tasting, the milkier chocolate from Settimana Cafe (we believe this is Angelo's Italian Gelato) was our overall fave. The White Chocolate from Mia Francesca (which we believe is an AL's product) was also very nice, and if you want the super-dark our fave was AL's obtained at L'Appetito.
In Pistachio, we tried the Ciao Bella offering from Bistro 110 vs. that from Mia Francesca (AL Gelato, we believe), and Caffe Gelato. Mia's was our fave until we tasted the CB product, clearly our fave with whole pistachios, a wonderful texture, etc.
Strachitella/Choc Chip: Tried the CB chocolate chip from Uncommon Ground vs. the Strachitella from Ice Dreams. Just no comparison, the Ice Dreams with it's depth of flavor is one of our very favorites of the entire tasting. In fairness this is not a perfect head-to-head comparison as chocolate chip does not exactly translate to the more complex strachitella.
Cinnamon: a profound offering from Ciao Bella, sampled from Bistro 110, nothing to compare it to but very delicious and accents other flavors nicely.
Overall, in the city there are several locations that offer a very wide range of gelatos: L'Appetito in Hancock Center, Caffe Gelato (Division west of Damen), Penguin (2600-2700 Block W. Lawrence), Ice Dreams (Clark N. of DIversey), and Food Life at Water Tower. Of these 4, we definitely like L'Appetito (with AL Gelato products) and Ice Dreams (made in the store). Penguin seemed to have a texture we can only describe as "goopy" and Caffe Gelato seemed the rubbery texture of well-refrigerated cool whip. Food Life was tasty but a bit "simpler" than AL Gelato or Ice Dreams.
There are several wholesale Gelato vendors including the aforementioned AL Gelato, Ciao Bella, and Angelo's. We believe Angelos' is the supplier to Settimana Cafe and we enjoyed both of those flavors, both in taste and texture. We sampled much more of Ciao Bella and AL Gelato, both very nice products with perhaps a very slight nod to Ciao Bella.
Our overall favorite flavors, and perhaps favorite source for gelato is Ice Dreams. One problem being their flavors tend to "non-conventional" making direct comparisons somewhat difficult depending on what flavors are currently offered. But their Strachitella and Boccio, both very traditional italian flavors are both outstanding and two of our favorites of the entire tour.
As for places to sit and have a coffee and gelato, L'Appetito at Hancock is hard to beat, with Illy espresso available. Uncommon Ground was a pleasant discovery in Wrigleyville... an eclectic coffeehouse with an interesting entree and dessert menu. They also feature a wide range of live music.
Finally, while Chicago gelato is plenty tasty, we have some catching up to do with the ethereal offerings in New York.