You could call gelato “Italian ice cream,” but that would underrate its luscious texture and emphatic flavors.
New Jersey’s strong Italian heritage, our support of indie businesses and our high-quality food and drink have made our state a haven for gelato makers.
Below, we delve into where you can win the gelato lotto. (Check out more of our favorite spots here.)
Jersey & Co. Gelato pays homage to “Jersey City’s beautiful diversity and incredible food sophistication,” says co-owner LeKendrick Shaw. “I grew up in the [now-gone] Duncan Projects, and my co-owner and chef, Peter Jose, is also JC-born and -bred. Our insanely delicious ube gelato, with purple sweet potato from the Philippines, honors Peter’s family roots.”
Before opening in 2018, Jose completed a program at Gelato University, which truly exists, in Italy’s culinary capital, Bologna. “Our gelato is made from scratch right here in our West Side shop,” says Shaw. “We use only top-shelf, fresh ingredients, and we source in-state whenever we can. Our Jersey strawberry gelato is pure Garden State.”
Alongside its two dozen varieties, 12 to 16 of which are scooped daily, Jersey & Co. serves gelato milkshakes, affogato (espresso plus gelato) and dairy-free sorbetto. “Jersey City residents may have international tastes, but they rally around neighborhood businesses,” Shaw reports.
“Word has gotten out, and we now cater parties with gelato cakes, gelato bars, you name it. If Jersey City can think of it, we can make it.”
55 Mallory Avenue, Jersey City; 201-918-5646
Newark Liberty Airport’s Terminal A
“Entering Gelato Dolceria in Haddonfield is like walking into gelato bars in Italy, which are destinations for hanging out in your neighborhood,” says John Caiola of his shop. “I’m Italian-American and my business partner, Miguel Paletta, is Italian-Argentinean. We were raised with an instinct for what’s authentically Italian. This is.”
Gelato Dolceria’s marquee dessert is imported from the Piemonte region of northwest Italy, where “the milk is from a dairy in a one-time Renaissance monastery,” he says. “Our customers say they close their eyes and they’re vacationing in a northern Italian village.”
The gelato, “lovingly flown in like precious roses,” comes in scoops and cones of rotating varieties, including almond nougat, stracciatella (chocolate chip), crema al’ Uovo (“cream and egg, gelato’s original flavor,” Caiola says) and chocolate-hazelnut (“the building blocks of Nutella, minus the processing and additives”).
Patrons have their choice of hot drinks, Italian pastries and cookies, sorbetti such as “bracingly dark chocolate” and frutti de bosco, or “fruits of the forest, meaning intense little berries.”
147 Kings Highway East, Haddonfield; 856-429-8100
APEM Creamery // Sorbetteria’s name isn’t an acronym, but simply “my nickname growing up in Passaic,” says Alex Saneski, who co-owns this Bloomfield favorite with California-bred Jennifer Ko. He trained at Manhattan’s French Culinary Institute, where he “discovered an affinity for gelato-making,” he says. “This is so much fun for a chef. The relatively modest amount of cream allows our fresh, natural flavorings to absolutely bloom.
“We limit our menu to around a dozen flavors at a time, so we can perfect them. We love thinking up and working on gelati that showcase various aspects of the state, because New Jerseyans are so into our local culture: rainbow cookie for Pride Week; sweet corn for late summer; something special for National New Jersey Day, July 27. Whatever it is, it will have a lot of attitude.”
870 Broad Street, Bloomfield; 973-666-0438
Englewood’s Bianco Nero Gelato is the picture of an inviting Italian sidewalk café, tailor-made for relaxing with gelato.
No relaxing in the kitchen though. “Everything is made back here,” says co-owner Riki Berkman. “We have three chefs working around the clock and over 300 proprietary recipes,” she explains. “Thirty-two flavors are prepared every day. The kids love the cotton candy gelato and the biscottino, which is cookies and cream.”
Grownups may gravitate to innovations like sesame-enriched halva pistachio and malabi, a gelato take on a Middle Eastern pudding that’s fragrant with rosewater, coconut and pistachio. Bianco Nero also caters to canine connoisseurs, who crave the shop’s dog-specific Mr. Oliver flavors, especially the honey banana and peanut butter maple. “No sugar, no grain—just healthy enjoyment,” Berkman notes. “Bergen County dogs are trend-setters.”
18 East Palisade Avenue, Englewood; 201-731-3088
Mike Rocca, owner of Gelato Envy in Rockaway, has always been driven to be the best. A former tennis pro, he worked as a coach in Italy, “where the game is unbelievably competitive,” he says. “A life-changing encounter with a pistachio gelato in the Tuscan town of San Gimignano” steered Rocca to his subsequent passion: “to ace very high-end gelato” for the discriminating denizens of northern Morris County.
Gelato Envy has done just that. Its milk, fruits and herbs—”nothing artificial, ever,” stresses Rocca—come from nearby farms, but the Valrhona chocolate hails from France, the vanilla beans from Madagascar, the hazelnuts and pistachios from Italy.
Created by a trio of chefs, the roughly dozen daily flavors—heady black sesame, anyone? Or tongue-tickling maple bourbon cinnamon?—are announced on Instagram and Facebook. They complement six classics whose disappearance “would disappoint so many people,” Rocca says.
A handful of sorbetti tempt daily, including lemon basil and mojito. Pup Cups, for four-legged fans, come in one flavor: PB banana, featuring real bacon bits. Ruff life!
350 Rt. 46 at Boro Plaza, Rockaway; 973-343-7968
Jon F. Snyder, the entrepreneur behind Il Laboratorio del Gelato, is a gelato prodigy and pioneer. Before he was 25, he founded and sold another successful gelato brand, Ciao Bella. Next he earned a bachelor’s and MBA from Columbia, and in 2002 opened the first (still-thriving) Il Laboratorio del Gelato on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Since his move to Montclair (“with my partner and two toddlers”) in 2020, then to West Orange’s Llewellyn Park in 2022, Snyder has supervised the opening of Laboratorios in Hoboken and Upper Montclair, owned by Montclair resident Mike Kurt.
Snyder is currently scouting a production space on our side of the Hudson; in the meantime, the gelato is made in the brand’s original Manhattan venue. He and his team of chefs create gelato “using the purest, freshest ingredients, and collaborating with some of the best restaurants and chefs in the New York area,” he says.
The team has developed nearly nearly 300 flavors, ranging from allspice to zabaglione. Deep yet nuanced, they include 19 distinctive chocolate varieties, seven mint, five vanilla, five fig, three peppercorn—but just one avocado, cheddar cheese, Earl Grey, Grape-Nuts, Guinness, lucuma (an Andean fruit), mastic (plant resin from the Greek island of Chios), poppyseed, shiso (Japanese leaf) and wasabi (no kidding).
“We offer 48 flavors at any one time,” Snyder says. “Many are seasonal, like summer corn, autumn’s Concord grape and winter’s blood orange. We source locally whenever possible, including Jersey produce.”
In Laboratorio’s Garden State shops, gelato buffs can order cups and cones, plus coffees, then enjoy indoor or outdoor seating. The brand is served in some local restaurants, including Undici in Rumson (one of NJM’s favorite Italian eateries) and Birravino in Red Bank. “Our Jersey customers’ tastes are no different from [those in] NYC,” affirms Snyder, who in December opened his first international location in Shanghai. “Discerning clientele find us.”
500 Washington Street, Hoboken
598 Valley Road, Upper Montclair