Photo: One of the friendly servers at Le Botteghe di Leonardo.
A day in Italy without gelato is a day wasted. This is not a particularly original aphorism, but I can't think of one that's more appropriate (unless you substitute caffe for gelato).
In fact, some of the most heated discussions I've had in Italy — even more so than the political shenanigans of Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — have involved where the best gelato is served. Vivoli, some say. Grom, others insist. Perche no, Gelateria dei Neri, Gelateria Carabe … and so on. You can find dozens of them.
Last night, we tried a spot just down from our apartment on Via dei Ginori. Le Botteghe di Leonardo, which opened only three years ago, advertises itself as serving "il gelato che non c'era" — which, in my poor translation, comes out something like "the gelato that never was." Or "gelato like you've never had." You get the point. The place prides itself in using no artificial ingredients (a big selling point in today's Italy), using only fruits that are in season and only the highest quality milk and cream.
I ordered stracciatella, my favorite, which is the best chocolate chip ice cream you've ever had (especially when the chips are thick chunks of shaved chocolate). And I had the server add in a second scoop of pure chocolate, which was delicious even if it tended to overpower the far more subtle stracciatella. (That's my cone in the guy's right hand, pictured above.)
You can go on any number of Web sites and find testimonials about this or that gelateria. But the quality of the dolce served at Le Botteghe di Leonardo, along with the friendly nature of the servers — always a big deal in my book — makes it a nice discovery.