By Mollie McWilliams
By Molly Gore
By Pete Kane
By Pete Kane
By Anna Roth
By Alex Hochman
By Joseph Geha
By Anna Roth
The tiny Ciao Bella Gelato Co. on Harrison has no décor and roosts on a featureless downtown street, but it offers some of the best gelato and sorbet available anywhere. (The shop does a brisk business supplying them to high-end restaurants.) Among my favorites of its stunning, inventive array of flavors (five different vanillas alone, including French, Hawaiian, and Tahitian) are the malted milk ball gelato and the blood orange sorbet. Neither was available (except in pre-packed pints) when I stopped by the other day, perilously close to closing time, but the indulgence of a patient staffer enabled me to taste a variety of seasonal delights. There was an eerily accurate watermelon sorbet, a swooningly fragrant raspberry-hibiscus sorbet, and a hazelnut-chocolate gelato that tasted precisely like an Italian gianduja chocolate bar. Next time I'll go for the new, award-winning mint sorbet, or maybe the cinnamon caramel swirl gelato -- and it might be at the new Ciao Bella, due to open soon at the Ferry Building, with longer and more tourist-friendly hours.
Also expected to open shortly at the Ferry Building is the first-ever branch of Taylor's Refresher, the famous Napa Valley burger stand, which I mention only because the last time I lunched at one of its shady picnic tables, I enjoyed my thick mint chip milkshake, made with Double Rainbow ice cream, more than anything else we had -- yes, even though the cheeseburgers, soft-shell crab tacos, onion rings, and chili cheese fries were, well, delicious. But it was a very hot day.
688 San Jose
San Francisco, CA 94110
Region: Mission/ Bernal Heights
Small dish, mint chocolate chip and peppermint candy $1.95
Small caramel sundae $4.95
Black and Tan $7.95
Ciao Bella Gelato Co.
Double scoop, watermelon sorbet and hazelnut-chocolate gelato $2.95
Pint, malted milk ball gelato $4.50
Mint chip milkshake $4.59
Toy Boat Dessert Cafe
Small two-scoop cone, Choconutty and dulce de leche $2.35
Mitchell's Ice Cream, 688 San Jose (at 29th Street), 648-2300. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: moderately difficult. Muni: 14, 26, 49, 67. Noise level: low.
Maggie Mudd, 903 Cortland (at Gates), 641-5291. Open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: easy. Muni: 24, 67. Noise level: low.
Fentons Creamery, 4226 Piedmont (at Entrada), Oakland, (510) 658-7000. Open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight. No reservations (you can call ahead for a large party, but the staff doesn't guarantee immediate seating at the time requested). Wheelchair accessible. Parking: easy. Noise level: high.
Ciao Bella Gelato Co., 685 Harrison (at Second Street), 541-4940. Open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Saturday and Sunday. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: fairly easy. Muni: 15. Noise level: low.
Taylor's Refresher, 933 Main (at Charter Oak), St. Helena, (707) 963-3486. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: easy. Noise level: moderate.
Toy Boat Dessert Cafe, 401 Clement (at Fifth Avenue), 751-7505. Open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday from 7:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. No reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Parking: fairly easy. Muni: 2, 4. Noise level: moderate.
Double Rainbow is the brand on offer, too, at the adorable Toy Boat Dessert Cafe, anchoring a corner of Clement with old-time soda fountain appeal for more than 20 years. The menu boasts an almost unbelievable amount of foodstuffs (good sandwiches, salads, breakfasts, coffees, and teas), and the staff is patient with you as you design what you want. There's plenty to look at, too, especially an amazing frieze of vintage and modern toys (some of which are for sale). I take my cone of Choconutty (chocolate chip, coconut, nuts -- terrific!) and lovely dulce de leche for a walk; if I don't finish it before I get to my favorite San Francisco bookstore, Green Apple Books (520 Clement, 386-6128), I'll continue to lick the windows -- and my cone -- and hit the books on the way back.
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