Serious Eats: Sweets
First Look: Brioche Con Gelato at Pitango Gelato, Washington, D.C.
In America, the phrase "ice cream sandwich" probably conjures up thoughts of a thick, rectangular slice of vanilla ice cream sitting between two thin, chocolate wafers. One imagines peeling back the waxy paper before biting into the too-frozen treat. It's a memory most Americans share and, for most, indulging that bit of nostalgia involves a trip to the freezer aisle at the grocery store. There is, however, a sophisticated alternative if you're hurting for an ice cream sandwich as summer approaches: the new brioche con gelato ($5) at Pitango Gelato.
In Italy, a scoop of gelato is traditionally served in a hamburger bun-shaped brioche roll. Pitango's version is served on an oblong brioche roll, more like a hotdog bun, and can be paired with any of their 20+ flavors of gelato and sorbet. The traditional is nocciola (hazelnut), but their pistachio and spicy chocolate are crowd favorites.
Biting into a brioche con gelato is really a sublime experience. The brioche is baked fresh daily and is lightly sweet and buttery. The gelato is perfectly smooth. The staff churns and stretches the gelato frequently to achieve the uniformly creamy and rich consistency that is the hallmark of great gelato. I tried the hazelnut, pistachio, and spicy chocolate and, while all excellent, the spicy chocolate was the most interesting.
The hot pepper flakes add a subtle heat that really complements the chocolate in an unexpected way. The end result is a balanced mouthful that is greater than the sum of its parts. When the brioche is warm and the gelato melts into the bread, all of the flavors and textures swirl together and it just feels like summer.
Pitango achieves such high quality gelato by using premium, sustainably produced ingredients. Their milk is sourced directly from a single herd of grass fed cows in Pennsylvania, and you can really taste the difference.
The brioche con gelato is available only at their Logan Circle location on weekends and is something that Pitango's owner, Noah Dan, has dreamed of bringing to America. If what I've tried of the brioche con gelato is any indication, it won't be long before the Italian ice cream sandwich makes its way all over DC.