Location: 536 Queen Street West, Toronto
If you’re looking for an off-kilter scoop of gelato, Death in Venice is the place to go. With their various flavours featuring ingredients like parsnip, kaffir lime, and lavender, you’d be advised to look elsewhere if you’re hoping for a scoop of plain chocolate or vanilla.
Of course, it’s easy enough to serve oddball flavours as a novelty; it’s not-so-easy to make them actually taste good.
I can happily say that Death in Venice absolutely nails the whole “tasting really good” thing.
On this particular visit I tried the pistachio yogurt and baklava, which was outstanding. It features crispy bits of phyllo pastry, pistachio chunks, and honey, which really nails the baklava flavour. The yogurt adds a very subtle tartness. There clearly isn’t enough yogurt here to qualify this as frozen yogurt; there’s just enough to add that flavour without being overly sour.
That’s not to mention the lemon zest, which works perfectly with the other elements here. I think there might have also been ricotta? I’m not sure.
But you know what I am sure about? That this was great. Because it was great. Aside from the really interesting combination of flavours, the gelato itself was creamy and luxurious. It’s good stuff.
Location: 443 King Street West, Toronto
I mentioned recently that Hollywood Gelato is a strong contender for my favourite gelato in the city. Also on that list? Soma Chocolatemaker. You wouldn’t think that a place that makes great chocolate would also make great gelato, but hey, why not? They also sell some pretty tasty cookies, so I guess they’re just great at everything.
I got the dark chocolate gelato, and as you’d expect from a place with the word “chocolate” in their name, the flavour was outstanding. It had a deep, rich chocolate flavour with a perfect balance of sweetness. The creamy, almost fudgey texture was deeply satisfying.
I’d be surprised if there were a better scoop of chocolate gelato in the city.
Location: 283 Rushton Road, Toronto
You wouldn’t be blamed for getting kinda bored of gelato in Toronto. You seemingly can’t walk more than a few blocks without coming across a gelato shop in the city. A lot of it is quite good, but after a while, it all starts to feel samey.
Enter: Bar Ape, which mixes things up by selling their gelato in soft serve form. Of course, this means that they can only serve two flavours at a time (though chocolate-covered gelato bars are available in a variety of combinations), but it’s a worthwhile trade-off for something that’s so delightfully unique.
On this particular visit the two flavours were chocolate sorbet and fresh mint. I got the twist, which comes with both.
Sorbet is generally made without dairy, so I was concerned that it would be icy or thin, but it was rich and creamy, with a really nice dark chocolate flavour.
The fresh mint was even better; unlike 99 percent of mint ice creams, which are made with mint flavouring, this was clearly made with actual fresh mint leaves. This gave it an interesting herby flavour that really made it stand out. The combination between it and the chocolate was a home run.
The only real downside? The wooden spoons. They’re becoming more and more common in the city, and I feel bad for criticizing them — they’re obviously more environmentally-friendly than plastic — but the rough texture and mild woody flavour makes them an off-putting implement for eating ice cream. Plastic (or metal) or GTFO.
Location: 1640 Bayview Avenue, Toronto
I’m not sure why, but there are way more gelato shops in the GTA than regular ice cream. I’m pulling this number right out of my you-know-where, but I’d guess there’s something like four gelato places for every one ice cream shop.
So when you’re talking about the best gelato in the city, there’s quite a bit of competition. But Hollywood Gelato is certainly a strong contender for that list.
On a recent visit, I got Rocky Rocher (chocolate hazelnut) and Sicilian Pistachio. The texture was phenomenal. It’s slightly stretchy and richly creamy; you’re not going to do much better in the texture department without a plane ticket to Italy.
The flavour, however, wasn’t quite up to snuff on this particular visit. It was still very good, but the flavour on the Rocky Rocher was a bit muted, and the pistachio was slightly too strong (I think someone was a bit heavy-handed with the pistachio flavouring in this particular batch). There was also a vaguely unpleasant aftertaste that lingered on my palate for a while after I was done.
(I think I’m coming off more negative here than I should — don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious. It just wasn’t quite as delicious as it usually is.)
On another visit, I got a couple of the wackier, Easter-inspired varieties: Creme Egg and Kinder Surprise. Surprisingly enough, they were a lot better than the more traditional flavours I had on my previous visit. The Kinder Surprise, in particular, really nailed the milky, chocolatey flavour of that particularly treat.