Ice cream is the signature summer dessert. Successfully walking the line of indulgent and refreshing, it provides a blank canvas for an endless variety of flavors. With D.C.’s humidity, nothing is better than treating yourself to a generous scoop of ice cream from one of the many creameries around the city. We bravely took on the task of visiting and trying ice cream around the DMV to compile our list of the four must-try local ice cream and gelato shops in the region.
To be clear, we are aware there is a distinction between ice cream and gelato, but D.C.’s strong gelato presence infiltrates the District’s ice cream scene, and at the end of the day, they are so similar and delicious we include two on this list.
Dolci Gelati is an all-natural, authentic Italian gelato and pastry company. Each flavor is artistically displayed in the window, showcasing either vibrant colors or tasty mix-ins. Indecisive people be warned, Dolci carries a wide range of flavors, from classics like stracciatella and Bacio (Chocolate Hazelnut) to experimental flavors like maple bacon and coconut lemongrass. At a Nats game, enjoy their special flavor exclusively offered at the stadium, Natitude, which is a mixed-berry pomegranate gelato.
“What makes us and our flavors truly unique is Chef Gianluigi’s background as a fine-dining pastry Chef, which gives Dolci an edge in creating any flavor our fans and clients can dream up,” Co-Founder Anastasia Kessler-Dellaccio said.
Kessler-Dellaccio’s personal favorites for summertime include red velvet cake spun with homemade cake and vegan sorbets like limoncello, passion fruit, and watermelon mint because of their light and refreshing qualities.
Dolci Gelati has several storefront locations, including Shaw, Takoma Park, Old Town, Alexandria and Friendship Heights. A full list of locations can be found here. Pints of Dolci Gelati can also be found in Whole Foods Markets throughout the DMV and several other local wholesalers. dolcigelati.net // @dolcigelati
In Capitol Hill and across from Eastern Market, Moorenko’s is a fun and accessible location to enjoy delectable ice cream. I walked into the shop and saw a variety of enticing flavors. Wild blueberry, cotton candy, cookie overload — of course I had to taste more than one for research purposes. My single scoop of choice was blackberry chocolate chip. I normally veer towards chocolatey flavors, but choosing a fruit base perfectly complemented the chocolate, making it refreshing for 90 degree weather. It was hard ice cream but each spoonful was silky and speckled with real blackberry pieces.
“It’s an ultra-premium ice cream, meaning that the milkfat content is above 16%,” Founder Susan Soorenko emphasized. “It also has very little air whipped into it. It’s dense, very creamy and totally satisfying. We also don’t use a lot of sugar, so you get a true representation of the flavor you order without it being overly sweet.”
Moorenko’s Capitol Hill Location is their only storefront in D.C., but they have several locations throughout Maryland, that you can view here. There’s also a handful of local eateries and small markets that carry them throughout the DMV. See the list here.
Tucked in between a BB&T bank and a framing store in bustling Adams Morgan, Nicecream is not to be overlooked. As you enter the shop, stand mixers are lined up where they make the ice cream, using liquid nitrogen to instantly freeze the cream right in front of you. With both ice cream and a performance, Nicecream is a memorable experience.
Their innovation extends to their variety of flavors, including cinnamon dulce latte, banana foster and the seasonal sweet corn. Each flavor was bold and exciting. I ended up choosing a small single scoop of caramel pretzel ice cream and it was a sweet-salty delight. The pretzel chunks danced around the perfect amount of caramel swirls for a satisfying afternoon treat.
“Sourcing locally and fresh has been a core value of our business from the beginning,” Co-Founder Gil Welsford said. “We don’t use any of those pastes or extracts. We only use real fruit and veggies from local farmers that we are friends with. The love and the passion, along with some liquid nitrogen, is what we believe really makes our ice cream stand out.”
Nicecream currently has locations in Shaw, Old Town, Alexandria and Arlington, VA, in addition to their Adams Morgan shop. A minimum of six pints can be ordered and shipped to you throughout most of the East Coast, including their recent expansion to shipping to New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. You can view their flavor selection for shipping here.
Last but equally rewarding stop, Pitango Gelato in Penn Quarter rounded out the tour, with its premium technique in making gelato and quality sourcing of ingredients — including sourcing the dairy from owner Noah Dan’s Spring Wood Organic Farm in Pennsylvania. Proud purists, Pitango has tons of flavors rooted in classic and simple flavors.
I selected the stracciatella and it was thick, dense, and lusciously smooth, exactly what gelato should be. The menu changes regularly but always has 10 classic gelato options. They also carry 10 vegan, dairy-free sorbets at all times, like mango and mojito to dark chocolate, making it an optimal spot for anyone who wants to indulge in a cold treat. Since 2015, Pitango Gelato even has some cafés throughout the DMV serving breads and pastries, coffee, salads and sandwiches.
Pitango has multiple shops, including locations in Adams Morgan, Reston, VA and Bethesda, MD. The full list can be found here
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