I went to Toscanini’s for the first time several years ago on a trip to Boston with my family. My mom, like so many people, had learned about Toscanini’s from the New York Times article that deemed it “the world’s best ice cream,” a quote proudly displayed in the store window. Owner Gus Rancatore is known for his creative and unusual ice cream flavors. flavors. But even the less unusual flavors taste divine. You might recognize Gus’s last name as sharing the name of another of my favorite ice cream shops, Rancatore’s or Ranc’s in Belmont. Ranc’s is owned by Gus’s brother Joe. Toscanini’s serves some of my favorite flavors that Rancatore’s also does, including grapenut and vienna finger.
Sadly though, on the day I went there was no plain Vienna Finger, only Bourbon Vienna Finger, which was too bourbon-y for me. I was more than okay with its absence once I tried the blueberry lemon. Blueberry lemon is one of my most favorite flavor combinations, but I had never seen it in ice cream or considered it, and I fancy myself an experienced ice cream consumer. Once I got outside into the sunlight, I was struck by its appearance. The color was a beautiful shade of lavender and if you looked closely, there not only were dark specks of blueberry, but tiny pieces of bright yellow lemon rind as well. It was a perfect mix of sweet, robust blueberry and tart lemon, with a wondrous rich, creamy texture.
I paired it with maybe not the best flavor companion but I assure you I ate one and then the other, not together. Coffee ice cream sandwich caught my eye as I have a slight obsession with ice cream sandwiches. This one had coffee ice cream with pieces of soft chocolate cookie swirled in, the soft, cakey cookie that old school ice cream sandwiches are made with. I’ve ordered coffee oreo a lot this year but I enjoyed the softer, more mellow flavor of the chocolate cookie in this ice cream.
On another visit I had one of my favorites, grape nut. A delicate sweet cream base studded with grape nuts, which have soaked up the ice cream and softened. They add a wonderful slightly chewy texture and a nutty flavor. Along with grape nut, since I never pick just one flavor, I got the gianduia (chocolate hazelnut). This was rich. As in, take the richness of high butterfat ice cream, and add in further richness from chocolate and hazelnuts. There was nothing light about it. The flavor was fabulous, it tasted like eating chocolate hazelnut butter in ice cream form.
In researching the history of Toscanini’s, I learned that Gus at one point had additional locations in Harvard Square and in Davis Square, which would have been fun to see. The Cambridge shop is spacious as far as ice cream shops go, with a big communal table in the center and smaller cafe tables around the perimeter. On weekends they serve breakfast, charmingly called, “Breakfast@TheBigTable.” The website is usually always up to date with flavors available. Some of this week’s flavors that caught my eye are Goat Cheese Brownie, Red Carrot, and Butternut Squash with Grahams & Chips. One thing about Toscanini’s, you’ve never tried them all, there’s always something new.
899 Main St.