Ever since Messina opened back in 2002, Sydney has been head over heels 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 guys are all in the latter category.
After a pastry or cake? Check out the best sweet treats in Sydney.
RECOMMENDED: The 50 best restaurants in Sydney.
The best gelato and ice cream in Sydney
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.
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.
Behind the sunny, yellow facade of this Italian gelateria,things are decidedly green. Of course, there’s nothing more sustainable than a cone, the packaging that is also a tasty snack, but if you like your ice cream in a cup, you’ll be glad to know the shop uses compostable containers. Your tasters come on wooden sticks or compostable spoons, and even your takeaway tubs will soon be available in recyclable containers. Plus, half of the 14 flavours are dairy-free.
All the gelatos in this Marrickville gelateria are great, but props have to go to the zabaglione especially – it blows Messina’s poached figs in marsala out the water in terms of elegance of flavour. The ice cream is toned ever so gently with Marsala, with a fine layer of Marsala-soaked sponge strewn over the top. If you don’t like the rich, sweet, almondy taste of Marsala you’re gonna hate this. But for those of us who love it, this is pretty much heaven in a cup (Sicilians, walk this way).
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.
Tuscan co-owner Ferdinando (“Nando”) is more qualified than your everyday churner: he’s been making gelato for 17 years. Macadamia's the crowd favourite at his hidden gem of a suburban shop, but the ricotta and cinnamon is a must-try, as is the range of mostly vegan sorbet. Actually, scratch that – just try it all. No baroque, OTT flavour combos here, just proper Italian gelato that plays by the rules using high-quality ingredients and made with a whole lotta love.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nev Bagriyanik and his wife Zeyneb opened their ice cream parlour to bring the traditional sweets of their hometown of Maras to the Inner West. Expect sour cherry, Turkish delight, date, pistachio and the simple combination of milk and sugar to flavour your iced confections. The difference here is that they use salep, a flour made from orchid root that gives Turkish ice cream its super tacky consistency.
This fully plant-based gelateria uses coconut milk instead of cream to achieve a pretty similar result. Happily the very subtle coconut flavour you get in the ice creams here complements, rather than clashes with, the sweet caramel flavours in the dulce de leche gelato, which is a little more icy than a dairy edition but just as refreshing on a sweltering day.
This soft serve spot comes directly from South Korea and is all about topping your ice cream with everything from honey (from Taiwainese bees) to bacon (yes, you can now top your frozen cow milk with pig fat). The signature number sees a wodge of Taiwanese honey comb propped up on top of creamy soft serve, making for a perfect, swirly Insta-ready shot. You can also add on Momofuku inspired cereal milk, chocolate, popcorn, churros and macarons on top.
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.
Here they have three flavours of soft serve that change fortnightly, plus your choice of white fairy floss, toasted marshmallows, popping candy and caramel popcorn as an extra topping. Sea salt may sound like an odd choice, but the bright blue soft serve is sweet and creamy with a gentle briny kick – more like salt panna cotta than salt caramel. Keep your taste buds on high alert by adding a swirl of lemon ice tea into the mix. It tastes like Lipton Ice Tea, but with a serious citrus tang.