Summer’s here: Tasting Berkeley’s best ice cream

Elle Holland, who is interning at Berkeleyside this summer, chose an appropriately seasonal mission for her second article for us (her first assignment took her to Willard Pool where she spoke to regular swimmers before the pool closed for good last month). Elle, a sophomore at Berkeley High where she writes for the Jacket student newspaper, ventured out to some of Berkeley’s most popular ice cream parlors to partake in some comparison taste testing.

Gelateria Naia, 2106 Shattuck Avenue. This gelato shop has a knack for presentation, and each flavor container includes a small visual clue, whether it be a piece of the fruit from which to gelato is made, or an object that relates to the flavor — for instance a miniature parrot to represent Madagascar Vanilla.

Although Gelateria Naia first opened in the Bay Area, it has many other locations in California. But, given that it’s a chain, it does a very good job incorporating local ingredients into its gelato: Numi Tea, Blue Bottle Coffee, and produce from local farmers’ markets. Naia boasts that each of its flavors has its own unique texture too.

Almare Gelato, 2170 Shattuck Avenue. Almare’s greatest appeal is its authenticity. Many Italian foods and products line the walls of Almare Gelato, and all of the signs are in English and Italian.

Almare’s owner, Alberto Malvestio, learned how to make gelato from his great-uncle who has been selling gelato in Italy for 60 years.

The flavors at Almare are almost all traditional Italian flavors and fruit sorbets. All of the fruit for the sorbets is  bought at Monterey Market or Berkeley Bowl, and the hazelnuts and pistachios hail from Italy.


Lush Gelato, 1511 Shattuck Avenue. Lush’s Piedmont Avenue store had already received high praise from many Berkeleyans. Lush Gelato took over the Ciao Bella Gelato space in the Epicurious Garden in April and its gelato is made fresh in Oakland with all local ingredients.

Lush’s style of gelato is Argentinean as apposed to the usual Italian variety. All of the gelato is made by owner Federico Murtagh who is from Buenos Aires. Since gelato is a milk-based dessert, Lush uses milk from Strauss Family Creamery in all of its dairy products.

The majority of the fruit, and sometimes even vegetable ingredients, for their gelato is purchased at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market Tuesdays on Derby Street. Lush makes sure the flavors they are serving are all from ingredients that are in season, to ensure the highest quality gelato.

Flavors at Lush range from basic, such as chocolate and vanilla, to more experimental flavors like basil and fromage blanc & strawberries.

Tara’s Organic Ice Cream, 3173 College Avenue. Tara’s, christened after owner, Tara Esperanza, and the Hindu goddess of peace and protection, is a colorful and upbeat ice cream store.

Tara’s Organic Ice Cream originally opened in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but moved to Berkeley in the summer of 2009. There is art on the walls and statues in the corners creating a modern Indian vibe.

All of the recipes are created by Tara behind a curtain made of sari fabric. Tara’s flavors include in-season fruit, spices, and alternative sweeteners like agave.

Ici Ice Cream, 2948 College Avenue. Ici is as well-known in Berkeley for its infamously long lines as its delicious ice cream.

The ice cream at Ici Ice Cream is made with top-notch ingredients from local farms and created by Mattea Soreng, PJ Pawelek, and Mary Canales, the latter an ex- Chez Panisse pastry chef. Not only is it just the ice cream that is impressive, Ici has a very pleasing aesthetic. It is a sweet little French-styled store with complimentary bubble water and compostable spoons made from potatoes. Eleven flavors are offered daily, ranging from the classics to creative, artisan flavors such as green tea and brandied cherry.