No matter the time of year, and even at times in the deep of the winter, you can see people enjoying towering, elaborate cones of Italian-style gelato in different flavors on the streets of Paris, or stealing into the city's famed traditional ice cream purveyor, Berthillon, or in any number of other glaciers, to indulge in a big cup of the divine stuff, followed, perhaps, by a strong espresso.
In the summer, of course, ice cream seems to be a preferred meal replacement for both locals and tourists. Gelato in particular has become wildly sought after in recent years, with a crop of small speciality stores making it fresh onsite, and using only natural flavors and ingredients, with no stabilizers. Here are some of my favorite places to partake in frozen treats, whether you prefer a more traditional, icy-creamy variety or the deliciously dense yet airy quality of Italian gelato. For more ideas, check out pastry chef and ice cream expert David Lebovitz's excellent feature on the... same topic.
01 of 04
Berthillon: For Native French Gourmet "Glaces"
Considered by many to be the gold standard in French ice cream, Berthillon was established as a restaurant and tearoom on the charming Ile St Louis in 1928. 90-some years on, it attracts swarms of tourists and locals, especially in warmer months, for its creamy yet still comparably light and refreshing ice cream (creme glacée) and often unusual fruit sorbets. You can also buy the ice cream from authorized merchants, but this is the only official shop and tearoom in the city.
Made with only a mixture of heavy cream and creme fraiche (a much lighter variety), eggs, sugar, and natural flavoring, Berthillon prides themselves on using zero artificial colors, flavors, or stabilizers. Chefs make the ice cream onsite daily, and while some of the 60-odd flavors on their menus are constant (vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, caramel with salted butter), watch out for whimsical and delicious flavors including prailine with coriander and lemon, foie gras, Earl Grey tea, Gianduja with orange (one of my... personal favorites, combining nutty hazelnut with chocolate), Grand Marnier, and many others.
Prefer something a bit lighter? Refreshing sorbets include cassis, lime, litchi fruit, peach with mint leaves, lemon-thyme, and raspberry with rose extract. If you're celebrating Christmas in Paris, consider procuring a beautiful traditional Christmas log (buche de Noel) filled with ice cream and cake.
Getting There: 29-31 rue saint Louis en l'ile, 4th arrondissement
Metro: Pont Marie or Sully-Morland
Tel: +33 (0)143543161
Hours: Open Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am to 10 pm. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays, several weeks in mid-July and August. Call ahead when in doubt.
02 of 04
This tiny gelato shop in the heart of the Marais is my absolute favorite for Italian ice cream in Paris: ever since I stumbled upon it, I've made something of a ritual of indulging in a pot of it after enjoying a fantastic falafel from the nearby L'As du Fallafel. My frozen drug of choice? The intensely nutty, creamy pistachio paired with the subtly sweet, chocolate-hazelnut flavors of Gianduja.
Offering only twelve flavors at any given time, emphasising quality and intensity of flavors over sprawling choice, all the ice cream is made onsite here daily, in the adjoining kitchen. "Pozzetto" means "little well" and refers to the metal-lidded containers in which the gelato is stored (and from whence it's directly served). Rather than displaying the ice cream in big, visually appealing mountains, as is the tradition in many gelaterias, the folks at Pozzetto say keeping it stored in the wells preserves flavors and consistency.
I generally order a cone or cup to... go from the cute little window and walk around in a blissful state, but if you prefer to sit in, the tiny cafe allows you to sit, and partake in an authentic Italian espresso or gooey-thick hot chocolate.
Getting There: 39 rue du roi de sicile, 4th arrondissement (there's also a second location around the corner at 16, rue vieille du temple)
Metro: Hotel de Ville or St Paul
Tel: +33 (0)1 42 77 08 64
Hours: Open daily from 12:15pm to 11:45 pm (Mon-Thurs and Sunday), 12:15pm to 12:45 am (Fridays and Saturdays)
03 of 04
Giving Pozzetto a run for their money in the gelato department, Deliziefolle is tucked in the charmingly cobbled Rue Montorgueil district, just a block away from the monstrous Les Halles shopping center. The ice cream is made from all natural ingredients and comes in flavors including fresh melon, mojito mint, and traditional favorites such as stracciatella. The recipes are all creations of award-winning glacier Pellegrino Gaeta, winner of the international "Maitre Glacier" prize in 2007. I especially appreciate their subdued sweetness, since I don't like my ice cream very sugary.
The only downside to this place? It shuts its doors through most of the winter. Call ahead to find out if it's open.
Read my full review here
04 of 04
This gelato chain serves very decent Italian-style ice cream in several locations around the city. It's a good choice for family outings with kids, since you can choose from over a dozen flavors (as many as you want, theoretically) and arranged artfully in petals on a cone or in a cup.
Getting There: 119/121 Rue St Martin, 3rd arrondissement