Ever since Messina opened back in 2002, Sydney has been head over heals in love with gelato. Which we always should have been, really, given that we are a seaside city that’s also stinking-hot half of the year – because what do beaches and heat equal? That’s right: ice cream. There are a thousand places to get it – from the gummy, overly saccharine crap, to smooth, silky excellence. Rest assured, though, that these ten are all in the latter category.
Here are our top ten favourite gelaterias in Sydney right now:
Order the gelato burger
It may look like a quiet suburban café during the day, but on Saturday nights the queues go round the block. If they’re not here for the thick, pudding-like hot chocolate (which you’ve really gotta try), they’re certainly here for the gelato. Try the gelato burger. It’s two scoops of house-made gelato (we like the zabaglione flavour, which is rich, eggy and icy-refreshing), a dollop of frothy whipped cream and a slick of Nutella sandwiched between a bouncy, buttery brioche bun. It’s a messy eat, but by God is it a fun one.
Order the cookies and cream
You might think it’s all cakes here but Sydney, it ain’t so: at the back of the store there is a range of fresh gelatos, made on the premises. The flavours change with the seasons but our pick is the cookies and cream, made from vanilla gelato tossed with their own crushed triple-choc cookies. Throw out your Connoisseur version immediately and just eat this: the cookies are crunchy, the ice cream creamy and smooth. Why a beach suburb like Freshwater has taken this long to get a gelataria, we’ll never know.
Order the white chocolate and raspberry
It feels like every beach should have a kickass gelateria, but not every one does. Avalon, however, knows the score. Let’s just get one thing straight, right off the bat: ‘Chill Bar’ is a bad name (we’ve missed you, the 90s) but the gelato, thankfully, is anything but. It’s made onsite, and our picks are the white chocolate and raspberry, which contains freeze-dried fruit that adds texture and sour respite from the sweet cream, and the strawberry sorbet, which is smooth and light and totally refreshing.
Order the chocolate sorbet
Maybe it’s the sun, maybe it’s the sand, but grabbing a cone at Pompei’s before wandering down to the beach feels like a Sydney tradition that should never be lost. The pistachio is that classic combination of acidic green colour and sweet, robust flavour, and the chocolate sorbet (made with Tuscan Amedei chocolate no less) is as clean and refreshing as it is full-bodied. And now that they’re doing house made choc tops, we’re all kinds of excited. There’s no need to sit in for a full meal if you don’t want to: the street-front gelato counter means you can get down to the crystalline waters of Bondi in no time.
Order the zabaglione
Order the cremino
It may look ordinary from the outside, but this Chatswood gelateria is wholly wonderful. All the gelatos are made fresh everyday and every one we try is delightful, but the one we fall for most is the cremino, which is basically a sundae that has already been layered up in the tub. It’s that classic Sicilian combination of strawberry sorbet with cream, this time in the form of a Jersey milk gelato (no vanilla needed: this milk gelato is all about the pure, barnyard flavours of the milk itself). It’s topped with chocolate and vivid green pistachios and is a little slice of heaven in a cup: refreshing, sweet and beautifully balanced.
Order the mandorla affogato
The queues here are well known, and they're all in line for one gelato in particular: the mandorla affogato. It won this gelateria World’s Best Gelato at 2014’s Gelato World Tour in Rimini, Italy. It’s hard to argue with them, because this is a bloody delicious ice cream. From the cream base infused with Madagascar vanilla and smoky Kenyan coffee, to the smashed-up shards of crunchy almond praline and the smooth salted caramel sauce, it’s worth your wait in that queue, whatever the weather.
Order the salted coconut and mango
You can’t have a best gelato list without talking about Messina. For some people it’s become a bit too commercial, since they now have stores in seven different spots. But we still love its game (and hey, it’s more accessible for the peoples – how can that be a bad thing?). From the playful, of-the-zeitgeist flavours (remember ‘The Heisenberg’, replete with a topping of blue crystallised violets?) to all the classics, these guys are still killing it, and we’re still in love with their out-there moves. We salute you, oh Godfather of innovative Sydney gelato.
Order the buttermilk and passionfruit
Ciccone and Sons is a humble affair: just a long, thin room with bunting on the walls, a couple of little church pews to sit on, rock ’n’ roll on the stereo and a chest freezer with ice cream up the back. In India they serve chilled buttermilk as a refreshing drink, and here at Ciccone they know the score. Their buttermilk and passionfruit flavour is possibly the most refreshing iced treat you could imagine – sweet'n'sour and slightly salty. Co-owner Mark Megahey replaces the usual milk in his base with Pepe Saya’s tangy, creamy buttermilk, making a gelato that is creamy but not overly rich, and tastes like summer in a cup.
Order the 'Alice'
RivaReno does gelato the Sicilian way, even making sure to store the gelato in ‘pozzetti’ (covered, stainless steel containers). Because the pozzetti are lidded, it means you don't get that sense of the spectacular as you walk in (as per Messina) but for Riva Reno – and for Sicilians, for that matter – they believe it keeps the gelato at exactly the right temperature, keeping it silky and luscious, and the ingredients at their freshest. And we’re not about to disagree with them; this is ridiculously smooth ice cream – it feels soft and velvety, drifting about the palate in cooling, refreshing tempos. Order an ‘Alice’ and you’ll get mascarpone flavoured gelato in a cone, with liquid gianduja (chocolate and hazelnut) sauce poured generously into the cone and on top of the cream. It's also, unlike many other gelatos around, not too sweet. We’re calling it: this joint may not look like it, given its humble fit-out, but RivaReno is serving the best gelato in town right now.