Among the many recent imports to Austin’s booming restaurant scene, it’s hard to imagine a more purely pleasurable addition than Dolce Neve, a new gelato shop located on the increasingly bustling strip of South First Street. Dolce Neve (Italian for “sweet snow”) is housed in a quaint, cheery bungalow designed by Austin legend Dick Clark. But inside the doors the vibe is pure Italy, with an authentic gelato experience (complete with fedoras and charming accents) scooped up by people who have it in their DNA. Say “Ciao” to Francesca, Marco, and Leo, a trio of Italian entrepreneurs with a penchant for silky frozen sweets. Francesca Ferrarese, the store’s Gelato Maestro, trained at Carpigiani Gelato University and refined her skills at Pisa’s Gelateria De’ Coltelli, one of Italy’s most famous gelato shops. Along with her brother, Marco Ferrarese, and her fiancé, Leo Silvestrini, she brought her expertise to Austin to fulfill their shared dream of starting their own gelateria.
So what’s the big deal—and the big difference—between gelato and ice cream? It comes down to the process and the ingredients. First of all, gelato is churned slowly and incorporates less whipped air, which results in a denser, silkier texture and more-concentrated flavors. And unlike ice cream, gelato is made with less cream and fewer, if any, egg yolks, resulting in a lower fat content. But let’s face it, we’re not counting calories here; gelato is all about pleasure.
On any given day Dolce Neve features about 20 different flavors ($3.95 a single scoop, $4.90 for a double) each made in small batches to ensure freshness. There are classics like pistachio, hazelnut, and stracciatella, the Italian take on chocolate chip. There are also seasonal blends like cream with strawberries or dark chocolate with black cherries. You’ll also find modern combinations like carrot with blood orange, and ginger, ricotta with honey and pistachio, and goat cheese speckled with Texas pecans. It’s hard to go wrong with the flavor of the moment--salted caramel—but the best option might be the namesake flavor, Crema Dolce Neve, a rich, decadent egg custard brightened with a kiss of lemon. The refreshing sorbetto selections feature punchy citrus like Texas grapefruit and Meyer lemon. Adventurous eaters will enjoy trying savory gelatos, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the occasional vegan and dairy-free offerings.
Careful attention is paid to how the gelato is stored and displayed. Don’t expect a garish carnival of colors under plastic sneeze guards. Instead, as in many of Italy’s finest gelaterias, selections are displayed in a sleek pozetti cabinet. Each flavor is covered with a fitted stainless-steel lid, protecting it from the harmful effects of sun, air, heat, and humidity and preventing it from forming an unappetizing film on top.
In addition to cones and cups, Dolce Neve offers frozen novelties like pretty gelato sandwiches ($5.10), granitas, and gelato-on-a-stick treats. There’s even affogato, one of my favorite Italian dessert “drinks”—a shot of hot espresso poured over two scoops of gelato. It’s hard to imagine a better end to an evening.