It all started with Amarena gelato—dark Italian cherries mixed with fior di latte, a milky sweetened cream. Tasting it one summer in Sardinia spurred Kristina Frantz to study traditional gelato-making in Bologna before opening Dolce Brooklyn with her husband in Red Hook.
As you might know, gelato isn’t just ice cream with an Italian name: it’s got significantly less fat than what we call ice cream since it’s made with more milk than cream. Gelato’s also churned at a much slower rate than ice cream, incorporating less air. The resulting density, silky texture and warmer serving temperature tends to make any added flavor pop on the palate.
Frantz takes a minimalist approach, letting just a few key ingredients shine—it’s her way of honoring the natural beauty of gelato and avoiding anything that competes with that. She takes inspiration from whatever’s available locally, like Persian dried limes from Sahadi’s or Tahitian vanilla beans first given to her by the owner of Grindhaus restaurant down the block.
Dolce’s flavors ebb and flow with the seasons: Frantz likes to scout out the farmers’ markets at Union Square and Borough Hall with her six-year-old daughter, and has done a white peach gelato in summer, or more recently a chocolate bourbon variety, using whiskey from the neighboring Van Brunt Stillhouse. “It’s about appreciating core, essential flavors and an intensity that’s particular to gelato,” Frantz tells me while I moon over her olive oil creation—nothing but pure Italian olive oil and a milky gelato base. She doesn’t really do toppings or mix-ins, beyond the traditional Amarena (with Toschi cherries) and a stracciatella, which she infuses with fresh mint and dark chocolate.
Go before the crowds come by ferry in summer, get yourself an affogato (espresso with fior di latte), and head over to Valentino Pier for a clear view of Lady Liberty.