Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Strangely New York: If You're Serious About Ice Cream, Get in Line

By Mitch Broder

This space is too stark and forbidding even for a bank, so there’s just one thing it could possibly be:

A fashionable ice-cream parlor.

Note the spartan décor, meant to stimulate prompt product-selection. Note the copious lighting, meant to ensure efficient purchase-delivery. Note the grave atmosphere, meant to convey critical brand importance. Note the cop, meant to discourage any random escape of emotion.

For in fact, this is not an ice-cream parlor. It’s a gelato lab. It’s Il Laboratorio del Gelato, the nerve center of creamology. Step in, order, eat and leave, or better yet, leave and eat. If you eat in, you’ll be standing up or sitting on a slab of steel, and that’ll teach you.

OK, I’m done. I’m not here to knock a man’s business, and besides, sarcasm’s exhausting. The truth is, online reviews suggest that the desserts here are delicious. I just couldn’t eat any, because as soon as I walked in I felt more depressed than I ever had in a store created for pleasure.

I get the lab concept. Making such great ice cream is a science. On Ludlow Street you can look through the window and watch the scientists work. The window says that you might see them peel peaches, pit mangoes, core pineapples, juice lemons, roast pistachios, or wrinkle prunes. I made that last one up.

But inside, it’s antispetic. I thought someone would come take my blood. It made Baskin-Robbins feel cheerful, and that takes diligent grimness planning. As people stepped up to the counter I thought of the Soup Nazi stand in “Seinfeld.”
Maybe that’s why I didn’t order: No sorbet for you!

As usual, I’m out of touch. This place is clearly popular. It was on Orchard Street for years, and this new store is much bigger. The clinical motif dovetails with the digital life, yet has the bonus of old-fashioned marketing strategy: Ice cream from a laboratory must be good for you.

But I still say the joint is bleak. Not to mention pricey. A small serving is $4.25, a large is $6.75, and so is a milkshake or an ice-cream soda. If you’re ever on Long Island, visit my idea of an ice-cream parlor — Krisch’s, in Massapequa, which is where Seinfeld grew up, which may be ironic.

Meanwhile, absolutely step into the lab. After all, it was founded by the same guy who founded Ciao Bella. It has 200 flavors (not at once), and I’m sure they really are delicious. They need to be, if they’re going to lift the despair you fell into when you walked in.

Experiment at Il Laboratorio del Gelato, 188 Ludlow Street, at East Houston Street, in Manhattan.


  1. Agree! The decor is simply not in the "spirit" of this playful treat. I loved Guru Snowballs when they were around... Out of town, how about ? They get the ice cream & ambiance right!

  2. Ice cream should be fun, fun, fun. Maybe they want the colors of the ice cream to stand out against the white sterile walls. I bet it smelled colorless in there too. No thanks. Rather have an onion burger. Let's go to Krisch's! Yum, yum, yum.

  3. Remember Farrell's in the Massepequa Sunrise Mall? That place beat out Willie Wonka!

  4. There's always a tasty profiterole at Gene's (see earlier post about Gene's Restaurant).