see my ‘affogato wars of DC‘ post
Before I start on any details, the name. The name! Gelateria, the Italian name for an ice cream shop, is spelled with one L, derivating from the word gelato. I get what they’re doing here, as the picture above clearly shows – and good on them for trying to make the coffee as important as the gelato, but the pedant in me has an awfully hard time getting past it (kind of like my issues with the kids on my lawn).
Aaaaaanyhooooooo, La Gelatteria is a new shop in Kensington, MD, which means the good folks at Car Wash Coffee now have some competition for specialty coffee in town, with the added draw of the new kid in town scooping out gelato. My pal Rachel, whom you’ve met before if you read this blog, and her family are particularly excited because Gelatteria is walking distance from their house.
And that’s a good thing for them, because driving there can be problematic. The shop is the bottom floor of a new commercial building on a sloping lot. Their side of the building is at street level of a very busy road; pulling in and out of the lot is difficult at best, and the lot is very small and awkwardly laid out (6 spaces, with barely enough room to maneuver in and out of them). You’d better be looking for the place, because if you notice it when driving in the area there’s a very good chance that it’s already too late to pull in without putting yourself and others in grave danger. There’s no street parking to help you out, either.
Another oddity is that the shop is closed on Wednesdays. Uh, okay?
The space is big. You enter in front of the big gelato cooler, with all the delightful flavors to tempt you. The service bar and coffee equipment are behind it; there’s an accessibility ramp and a couple stairs leading down to the seating area, which is light and pleasant. It’s all very nicely done and charming as all get out, but just feels too big to sustain a business that will be greatly challenged in terms of walk-ins and parking.
Clearly a lot of thought and money went into the design and it’s all done to a very high standard. The staff are incredibly welcoming and friendly. The coffee beans come from Counter Culture, and a lovely white La Marzocco Linea PB is used to make espresso drinks.
First, the best thing was the gelato. The vanilla in my affogato was great, but the honey mascarpone fig gelato was a revelation. Fantastic. The flavors in balance, all tasting natural rather than artificial, the clear taste of fig coming through without any grit. Despite having fig and honey it wasn’t too sweet, and it wasn’t too heavy. Loved it, it’s unique and I would come back for that flavor alone.
I don’t know that I would come back necessarily for the coffee. This was my third visit, and despite starting with a great machine and great coffee beans the staff seems out of their depth in making espresso. I hope that they will improve with time, but for now it’s a missed opportunity as my macchiato has just been okay, this time out too much thick foam. Not a lot of flavor coming through, either. Nice touch to get a lovely little Italian cookie with it, though. My friend Rachel was along on this visit, and her cappuccino was far too hot, it seemed the milk was steamed for too long.
That leaves us with the affogato. First off a lovely presentation as it was served deconstructed, the gelato in a glass, the espresso in a Moka pot, all on a little tray.
Hate to quibble, but one element that was off was the gelato had already done quite a bit of melting. Maybe a little lack of care, but kind of threw it off as you’d rather pour the espresso on a solid ball of gelato. Not that I didn’t mind slurping the melty stuff out first, mind you.
I like that this deconstructed version lets you decide how much coffee to match with the ice cream, and the glass instead of a cup or mug is a nice touch. Here’s how I came out.
It was good, but I wish I’d had a lighter pour on the coffee, and that the gelato wasn’t as melty. Quibbles, really. Really nice gelato, good flavor and not too rich.
So great gelato. People are friendly. Lovely space. You may take your life into to your own hands getting in and out of the place. And while I can’t set my heart on them dropping the extra L from their name, hopefully the coffee making will come up to snuff; this may be growing pains as the place is still new (opened end May). Not putting them on my recommended places guide yet, but ready to do so if the coffee improves – hopefully they’re around long enough for that to happen.
10414 Detrick Avenue (enter on Knowles Ave), Kensington, MD