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Only in New York, il laboratorio del gelato, best in the universe


 Il laboratorio del gelato opened in 2002, but it’s hard to understand how New York City kept going before the perfect Italian ice cream stitched it all together.

Choices among 50 flavors await gelato lovers at University Place. Some are as startling as they are delicious. Black sesame? Chocolate cinnamon? Green tea? But those barely form the tip of the iceberg.

By David Stone

Special for the Roosevelt Island Daily News

The magic of il laboratorio del gelato got its start in founder Jon F. Snyder’s grandparents’ Carvel Ice Cream store in Westchester County. That passion, he says, erupted during a visit to Italy when he was 19. And gelato taught him the true meaning… well, not of life, but of ice cream.

Ice cream, Italian style.

Back in New York, he quit school and launched Ciao Bella Gelato Company, but after five years, he sold it and went back to school.

Eager to produce the world’s finest ice cream, though, three years later, on the Lower East Side, he opened il laboratorio del gelato. That’s where we found him.

il laboratorio del gelato: A Love Story

One summer afternoon after touring the world class Tenement Museum on Orchard Street, my wife dragged me off to a small storefront, little more than a broad window really, and reacquainted me with ice cream. Ice cream like nothing before.

I probably ordered something as close to generic chocolate as I could find. Look, I still have a hard time understanding why God ever made room for any other flavor. But He did, and now, it’s history, my history.

Lab U, il laboratorio’s newest space occupies a quiet corner halfway between Union and Washington Squares on University Place. Clean and minimalist, it sets the scene for elaborate indulgences in gelato. (Sadly, this location closed permanently at the close of the season, this year.)

My history with gelato was most recently highlighted with a triple of black sesame, espresso and green tea. With 50 flavors from which to explore, glorious combinations become easy.

That trip to the border of heaven tickled my taste buds at Lab U, il laboratorio del gelato’s newest outpost in the heart of NYU country. It’s on University Place, exactly halfway between Washington and Union Squares. This one’s closed now, but the main location at the corner of Ludlow and Houston Streets still thrives.

What’s up with all those flavors?

The delights of storefront gelato stirred to life by Snyder’s crew are a bit of an accident.

Conceived as a “custom kitchen for discerning chefs,” il laboratorio works with local chefs, developing unique flavors. The total is now nearing 300. Lucky for us mere consumers, they share the magic with us.

And if they don’t expand the count too quickly, I want to sample every one of them. Maybe before this summer fades completely.

Il laboratorio del gelato’s main space, where the magic is conjured, is at 188 Ludlow Street. Stuck in New Jersey? There’s also a store at 598 Valley Road in Montclair.

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