In the midst of yesterday’s sweltering heat, I visited Toronto’s newest gelateria and ordered every one of their 25 flavours. While that might sound crazy and excessive, it was all done in the name of this month’s Dine & Dish event, where Sarah of The Delicious Life asked us visit to a restaurant less than a year old. To help me with my gelato indulgence, I invited my food loving friends, Ken and Nancy to join me in my visit to the six week old Solferino Café.
Located in Toronto’s picturesque St. Lawrence Market district, Solferino Café is spacious and elegant in décor. Rows of dimly lit lamps hang from its lofty ceiling, and four tables, an espresso bar, and two Barcelona chairs let customers relax and escape from the humid Toronto summer. A ten foot window separates the kitchen from the dining area, and gives a glimpse of Solferino’s gelato makers in action. The store boasts a selection of 17 gelatos and 8 sorbettos that are made in-store daily.
In my two previous visits to Solferino, I ordered the small and medium sized cups, priced at $3.25 and $3.95 respectively. The scoops were very generous, and Solferino’s staff were happy to let me sample different flavours before I placed my order. Today however, we decided to order four $6 bowls each containing six medium-sized scoops.
For 90 minutes we sat at the bar eating nothing but gelato and sorbetto. Our first bowl contained lemon, cranberry, strawberry, mango, guava and Andean blackberry sorbettos. We unanimously chose guava as our favourite from this bowl for its refreshing and intense flavour. The sweet and creamy mango sorbetto came in a close second. My least favourite of the six was the lemon sorbetto, which I reminded me of bitter lemon pith.
Our second bowl contained pineapple and lulo sorbettos, and dulce de leche, Belgian chocolate date, pistachio, and vanilla brownie gelatos. My pick of the bunch was vanilla brownie, which was like glorified cookies and cream with its big chucks of bittersweet chocolate brownie amidst the sweet gelato. Nancy and I both thought the pistachio gelato had the unmistakable flavour of peanut butter, but Ken thought it tasted exactly like roasted pistachios. If you try it – let me know which of us is right.
Moving onto our third bowl containing passionfruit, guanabana, vanilla, coconut, avocado, and banana gelatos. The guanabana, also known as sour sap, was subtle and milky, while the passionfruit was intense and refreshingly tart but creamy. The avocado gelato was also creamy, but much less intense than normal avocado. Ken and I chose banana as our favourite from this bowl for its perfectly ripe flavour and ultra smooth texture. Nancy, who’s allergic to banana, chose passionfruit.
Our fourth and final bowl contained Andean blackberry, and the decadent Belgian chocolate (40%), mochaccino, coffee, hazelnut, and mint chocolate gelatos. The coffee gelato’s rich and bold flavour and slight bitterness made it everyone’s pick. My friends were less kind to the mochaccino gelato, rating it as one of their least favourite gelatos overall. Ken could only taste coffee in its aftertaste, while Nancy thought it was too sweet and reminded her of a Fudgesicle. And given the choice, she would choose a Fudgesicle over the mochaccino gelato.
At the end of our indulgence, I took the opportunity to talk with Solferino’s staff to learn more about their gelato making process. Each of Solferino’s gelatos and sorbettos begins with a chilled water, milk, or milk-chocolate base. Depending on the flavour, fresh or frozen purées are added, the ingredients are pasteurized before being cooled in a gelato machine, which constantly stirs the mixture to break up ice crystals as they form.
As I left the kitchen, I was given a scoop of freshly made chocolate-orange gelato to try. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of this combination, but this gelato was unique and delicious in that I tasted the bittersweet chocolate first before the tart orange.
Overall, I enjoyed our visit to Solferino Café very much. The gelatos all had a smooth and moist consistency and a nice melt, which for me, is just as important as flavour.
From the flyer posted at the front of the store, it’s evident that Solferino has an ambitious agenda. Up until now, the battle for gelato supremacy in Toronto has been between St. Clair West's La Paloma Gelateria & Café, and Leaside’s Hollywood Gelato. In Solferino, a new contender has emerged.
38 Wellington Street East
Toronto, ON M5E 1C7
(416) 364 8478