Massachusetts was recently ranked among the top five U.S. states for ice cream consumption, which means there’s plenty of scooping going on in the Bay State these days. And a lot of it, we’d bet, is happening in Boston. The Hub is home to ice cream chains both large (Baskin-Robbins HQ is just down the road, in Canton) and small (Boston-bred J.P. Licks boasts more than a dozen locations citywide). But it’s also got plenty of cult favorites worth seeking out if you’re looking to get a taste of the best ice cream in Boston.
Located just a cone’s throw from MIT — where a few years ago some brainy kids actually created 3D-printed ice cream — Toscanini’s has been blending old-fashioned creamery craft with a creative flavor menu since its founding in 1981. Alongside French vanilla, Belgian chocolate, and grapenut, you’ll find burnt caramel, Vienna finger cookie, and “B3” (brown sugar, brown butter, and brownies). To properly dress up your scoop of choice, there’s an ever-changing lineup of homemade toppings, including “turtle top,” which Toscanini’s describes as a “more magical Magic Shell.”
The only Hub ice cream shop that can rival Toscanini’s in terms of critical praise (both have won Best of Boston numerous times and earned raves from the likes of the New York Times and Bon Appetit), Christina’s is also in Cambridge. And it, too, is known for inventive flavors; many here are inspired by the exotic ingredients available at its sibling shop, Christina’s Spice & Specialty Foods. Notably light and sweet, the ice creams are immediately addictive. However, we also love the array of seasonal sorbets at Christina’s. Just thinking about some of those flavors — lemon rose, ginger lime, rhubarb — is enough to cool us off on a hot summer day.
Sure, you’ve had wafer cones, waffle cones, and sugar cones. But have you ever tried a cone lined with toasted Marshmallow Fluff? This amazing taste sensation awaits at Gracie’s in Somerville (incidentally, the very place where Fluff was born). Launched in 2014, Gracie’s has a knack for taking nostalgic treats like kids’ cereals and old-school candies and turning them into elevated ice cream. It also has experimented with a number of more sophisticated, adult-oriented combinations, like salty whiskey and coffee brandy chip. Regardless of which route you go, Gracie’s ultra-small-batch production ensures top-shelf quality every time.
Morano is the only spot on our list to hail from beyond Boston: The company was founded in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 2010. But it fits right in here, offering Italian gelato authentic enough to please any big-city palate. Located in tony Chestnut Hill, this outlet is just the third in existence — which also conveys an exclusivity sure to appeal to the Brahmin set. But beyond all that, Morano simply offers an outstanding product. Its dense, flavor-rich gelato is made from scratch every day, using many local ingredients as well as those sourced straight from Italy. The lineup of 12 to 16 flavors changes daily and features such classics as stracciatella and fior di latte. (That’s chocolate chip and sweet milk, but don’t worry, you’ll be fluent in no time!)
Filled as it is with some of the city’s best restaurants, the South End is renowned as a food lover’s paradise. So it stands to reason that you’ll find some of the best ice cream in Boston here. The neighborhood’s go-to for cold comfort is actually an upscale pizzeria, Picco. After digging into one of the gourmet thin-crust pies, you can dig into a scoop of gourmet ice cream — what could be better? The flavors skew a bit simpler than at other shops (think: pistachio, coffee, mint chip), but the taste and texture are sublime. Plus, Picco serves up frappes, sundaes, and unique specialties like an “adult” ice cream soda featuring raspberry Belgian lambic.
What are your picks for the best ice cream in Boston?