Best Ice Cream (S.F.)

Ciao Bella Café

1 Ferry Building, No. 8, Market & Embarcadero, 834-9330,

More than once we've inquired if the delicious ice creams and sorbets we've enjoyed for dessert in a variety of fancy restaurants were house-made and been told that the icy treats came from Ciao Bella, whose gelato is made from a family recipe out of Torino, Italy. It contains only 12 percent butterfat, as opposed to 16 percent in typical ice cream, and the creamy mouth feel results from its 20 percent air by volume, versus 60 percent in most American brands. The top-notch ingredients (fresh seasonal fruit, Tahitian vanilla, Valrhona and Scharffen Berger chocolates) come through strong and true on the tongue. Several dozen flavors (from more than 50 on rotation) can be had at Ciao Bella Café in the Ferry Building, where a small two-scoop dish is $3.50; more retail outlets can be found online. Recent favorites include malted milk ball (complete with candy chunks), fromage blanc, peaches and cream, chocolate orange, blood orange sorbet, and the slightly hot, very exciting chocolate jalapeño.

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