I know we have three more months or so of hot-as-dog-breath Tampa Bay summer, but letís start things off on the right foot with some frozen treats. Ice cream is on my mind after a recent visit to Disney Springs, when I found love in a perfect scoop of Vivoli il Gelato riso flavor, basically rice pudding in gelato form. Mind, blown.
Tampa Bay has more than its share of swoon-worthy ice creameries, gelaterias and places for something that will give you a mighty brain freeze. Here are a few of my favorites.
Sixty-two years into its tenure, Boís is still the drip-down-your-arm, eat-it-on-the-sidewalk soft-serve king. All of Tampa, when it gets its ice cream jones, can be found lining up in front of Boís. Some folks are dressed to the nines at the end of a big date, others sidle over in their bedroom skuffs. There are diehard fans of the upside-down banana split (served in three sizes, from doable to truly unsettling to think about) ó sliced banana, ice cream, hot fudge, pineapple topping, whipped cream, nuts, cherries and so forth, all rammed deep in a plastic foam cup. The purists sniff, insisting that a single dip of swirled vanilla and chocolate soft serve on a wafer cone is heaven. 7101 N Florida Ave., Tampa. (813) 234-3870. e_SClB
With less air introduced during the manufacturing, gelato is denser, softer and creamier than American ice cream. It often incorporates purees of fruits or nuts, and is kept at a warmer temperature, making it more amenable to cups than cones. Itís made with milk, not cream, so it has about 70 percent less fat than many ice creams. I like a whole bunch of flavors at Paciugo (pa-CHU-go), but the ultimate Italian experience is a scoop of triple vanilla gelato melting gently in a cup of intense espresso. 300 Beach Drive NE, Suite 120, St. Petersburg. (727) 209-0298. e_SClB
ROLLED ICE CREAM
Something fairly new on the scene and not cone-oriented, rolled ice cream is equal parts showmanship and dessert. Customers choose an ice cream base, then add desired toppings. The person behind the counter chops, massages and swirls the liquid on a frozen griddle until itís a thin, solid layer. That layer is then scraped into long furled tubes. Then these are nestled into a cup and topped with sauce, fruit or candy toppings. The staff of IceBurg rolls a foot treadle creating enough heat on the griddle to aid in removing the ice cream. Iím going to say the Oreos and Fruity Pebbles are fine, but simpler flavors like taro powder mixed with coconut flakes yields a sophisticated finished dessert. 449 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; (727) 800-9816. (Other rolled ice cream places around: Snobachi in Ybor City, Icesmile near USF, Mr. Ice Cream in Madeira Beach, and others.)
Stephen DiMare started Hyppo in St. Augustine in 2010 and it has taken off since then, with a dozen shops around the state selling outrageous ice pops. Some are creamy and some are pureed fruit popsicles, but they come in flavors like mamey sapota and pistachio rosewater, honeydew-basil and kale-apple-cucumber. This is almost exclusively fresh fruit, no preservatives or colors, non-GMO and dairy that is rBST-free. So, like health food on a stick. 627 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; (727) 498-6536. 1600 E Eighth Ave., Suite E100, Tampa; (813) 644-4289. 702 S Village Circle, Tampa; (813) 442-4387.e_SClB
Here is a universal truth. Custard and Italian ice go great together. Ritaís Italian Ice was started by former firefighter Bob Tumolo in Philly in 1984, and the concept has blossomed to 600 franchises nationwide. Iím going to say go mango or cherry ice (the latter if youíre amused by a persistent bright red tongue) paired with the vanilla custard. The misto shakes are solid, but itís the juxtaposition of textures and flavors that makes Ritaís ravishing. $3.75 for a regular size or $4.50 for a large. 2510 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater; (727) 796-7482. 1010 Court St., Clearwater; (727) 446-3023. 13147 86th Ave. N, Seminole; (727) 393-6740.