By Jennifer Van Hoof

Italian ices are a rite of passage for the hazy, hot and humid days of summer in Brownstone Brooklyn. My earliest taste was from Court Pastry, on Court Street at the Corner of DeGraw, during my childhood. We would spend a lot of time at my nana's apartment on Union Street and ices were a summer evening ritual. My dad used to like pistachio, which I would always taste, but I never deviated from my true love of lemon ice. Since we are in the dead heat of summer, I thought scoping out the best ices in Brooklyn would be a nice detour on our Italian culinary tour. Lemon is my favorite variety, so it'll be the highlight here, but all the places mentioned have a variety of flavors to satisfy every palate.

If you have that summer craving as I often do, I urge you to try homemade ice so readily available in any Italian neighborhood. Forget about Gino's, which most pizzerias serve. The Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill area ("South Brooklyn" to us natives and the local post office) still has a strong Italian community and influence, making it the perfect neighborhood to stroll and sample ices along the way. We'll also be visiting Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights, home of Alba's and Galifi Pastry Shop.

As I already mentioned, I grew up on Court Pastry's ices. It wasn't until my recent move back into the neighborhood that I decided to sample what the other guys had to offer. For good reason, my family has a strict allegiance to Court Pastry. The day my boyfriend suggested trying Monte Leone's ices, down on Court between President and Union Streets, I was shocked. Would this be considered culinary adultery? With the first lick of Monte Leone's lemon ice, I was seduced by its creamy texture and refreshingly sweet aftertaste. Court Pastry makes delicious ices, but I prefer the creamy texture of Monte Leone's. I urge you to taste for yourself. After all, food is a matter of taste. A review is just someone's printed opinion.

Uncle Louie's

A new comer to the neighborhood is Uncle Louie G's on Henry Street between Union and Sackett Streets, across from Alan Harding's latest venture, The Red Rail. I'll admit I'm suspicious of any place that makes a gazillion flavors of anything, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of their lemon ice. It reminded me a lot of Monte Leone's texture and had real bits of zest that burst with every lick. There is a sign at the sidewalk window that urges you to try samples of any flavor ice or ice cream you'd like, so it's worth a stop by to find out which one is your favorite. A word of caution: a dollar won't get you far at Uncle Louie's. Unlike the traditional $1 for a small ice at most places, get ready to cough up $1.50 for a small ice here. Actually, they call it medium (2 scoops), but it's a smaller serving than a small size at Monte Leone's.

When I visit my mom in Bensonhurst, I sometimes surprise her with homemade ices from Alba's Pastry Shop on 18th Avenue and 70th Street. They have a lemon ice worth traveling to taste. In fact, they also make a fresh orange ice that you must try if you find yourself in the neighborhood. If you're going straight home, get a pint to bring with you. As with all homemade ice establishments, feel free to get a couple of different flavors packed in one container. Tip: ask to have your favorite flavor packed on top, or else you'll have to eat your way to it down on the bottom. Most ice places are happy to give you a few cups to take with you if you'd like to enjoy your ice that way when you get home. As with all successful businesses though, the bigger they get, the more you have to pay for, so extra cups will cost you around 15 cents for 10.

Our last stop on this month's journey is Galifi Pastry Shop on 13th Avenue and 79th Street in Dyker Heights (tel. 833-9233). I used to live around the corner years ago and hold them near to my heart since they sell fresh made gelato by the cone or container. Their gelato cakes are too die for, so you should consider ordering one for your next occasion. They won't guarantee delivery on them due to the delicate nature of gelato, so you'll have to go in person to pick them up. Alas, we are here to talk about ices. Galifi makes fine ices. As good a lemon as most of the places I've mentioned so far. My recommendation, though, is if you're going that far for a cup of something, make it won't be disappointed.

I'm sure there are many of you wondering why I left out one place or another, so if you know of any ice establishments I should be visiting just for licks, please drop me an e-mail. Since The Main Ingredient wouldn't be the same without a recipe, I've included this quick and easy treat I made for dessert one evening. Until next time, stay cool and keep on licking!

Send an e-mail to if you'd like a copy of the recipe.

Main Ingredient Archives



Gelato Puff Pastry Presents
(makes 4 servings)

  • muffin tray melon baller
    (to use as a mini gelato scooper)
  • blender

  • 4- 4"x4" pieces of puff pastry

  • 1 cup of dry, uncooked beans (to weigh down the pastry)

  • chocolate syrup of your choice 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream sugar to taste

  • 2 cups gelato of choice

  • cocoa powder and mint leaves to garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 400°. Place glass bowl of blender in freezer for at least 30 minutes. Fit each piece of puff pastry into one muffin cup on the tray. If using a 12 cup pan, use the center cups so they cook evenly. Distribute the beans among the filled cups so they will hold their shape while baking. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Pour heavy cream into chilled blender bowl. Add sugar to reach the desired level of sweetness. Process on the "whip" cycle until stiff peaks form and you'll have fresh made whipped cream! Be careful not to over process or you'll overwork the cream and have to run out to the corner store.

Plain white dishes make a dramatic presentation for this delicious dessert. Drizzle each plate with one tablespoon of chocolate syrup. Place puff pastry cup in center and fill with six mini scoops of gelato. Top with a healthy dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with cocoa powder and a sprig of mint if desired. Buon Apetito!

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