Gelateria Carabé ★★

Gelateria Carabé ice cream parlor in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Concettina)
Gelateria Carabé in Florence.

The best Sicilian gelato in Florence

The milk and egg yolk–based gelato of Florence and the milk-based gelato of Sicily—which, it must be said, came first—vie for top honors in the ice cream world (the cream-based custard gelato of northern Italy takes a distant third).

Antonio and Loredana Lisciandro of Patti, Sicily, are out to prove to the Florentines that the Sicilians would win that contest with their Sicilian gelato parlor, Carabé.

Tip
Go to their website (www.parcocarbe.it) and you can print a coupon for a free gelato upgrade to a larger size.

Their shop, Gelateria Carabé, gives you the chance to be your own judge, offering genuine Sicilian gelato made by genuine Sicilians right in the middle of rival Florence.

(In fact, it's just a bit more than a block south of the Accademia, so leave one person to hold your place in line at the museum and scurry back to pick up some gelato for you all to enjoy while you want to see The David).

It is all homemade, using fresh ingredients direct from Sicily, which means the selection depends on whatever's in season in Sicilia.

Their specialty is the traditional granita di limone (ice pureed with fresh Sicilian lemons, the progenitor of all gelato and a distant ancestor of that sad, watery, syrupy concoction Americans call "water ice"), but it is available only from March to mid-October—like I said; they'll only use fresh ingredients, and only in season.

No matter, for their gelati are equally good—especially anything made with nuts. I was long a conformed avoider of all nut-based ice creams... until the folks at Carabé suggested I try the fresh pistacchio and I was initiated into a wonderful new nutty world of deliriously good gelato.

Taste for yourself and see if Florentines can hope to ever surpass such scrumptiousness direct from the island that first brought the concept of ice cream to Europe.

Tips & links

Details

★★Via Ricasoli 60r (a block south of the Accademia)
tel. +39-055-289-476
www.parcoocarabe.com
Closed Mon in winter

Bus: C1; 6, 14, 19, 23 ,31
Hop-on/hop-off: Piazza Libertà Viale Matteotti (C), Libertà (A, B); Independenza (B)

Gelatteria etiquette

At Florentine gelaterie, just like at bars and cafes, don't just saunter up to the bar and order two scoops of cioccolato or an espresso. Go first to the cashier, order what you want, pay for it, and take the receipt to the counter where you can order your cappuccino or your coppa (cup) or cono (cone) of gelato, putting the receipt down with a small coin as a tip.

Prices are pretty standardized

You pay by the size of the coppa (cup) or cono (cone), not by the scoop. That means you can—indeed, are encouraged to—squeeze two or even three flavors into even the smallest cup. Italians taught me that even unusual pairs go great together; a personal favorite: cioccolato e limone (chocolate gelato and lemon sorbetto). No, really; try it. Also most Italians order by the cup; the cone is a fun—if messy—American addition to the options, but not too popular.

Nearby...
General dining tips
  • "Pane e coperto" is not a scam: Nearly all Italian restaurants have an unavoidable pane e coperto ("bread and cover" charge) of anything from €1 to €15—though most often €2 to €5—per person that is automatically added onto your bill. This is perfectly normal and perfectly legal (though a few trendy restaurants make a big deal about not charging it).
  • Find out if service (tip) is included: Don't double-tip by accident. If the menu has a line—usually near the bottom of the front or back—that says "servizio" with either a percentage, an amount, or the word "incluso" after it, that means the tip is automatically included in the price. (If it says "servizio non incluso," tip is, obviously, not included.)

    Even if the menu doesn't say it, ask É incluso il servizio? (ay een-CLOU-so eel sair-VEET-zee-yo)—"Is service included?" If not, tip accordingly (10%–15% is standard).

    Don't be stingy about tipping, though. If il servizio is, indeed, already included but the service was particularly good, it's customary to round up the bill or leave €1 per person extra—just to show you noticed and that you appreciated the effort.
  • Tourist menus: The concept of a bargain prix-fixe menu is not popular in Italy. Some restaurants do offer a menu turistico ("tourist menu"), which can cost from €8 to €20 and usually entails a choice from among two or three basic first courses (read: different pasta shapes, all in plain tomato sauce), a second course of roast chicken or a veal cutlet, and some water or wine and bread. With very few exceptions, tourist menus tend to live up to their name, appearing only at the sort of tourist-pandering restaurants that the locals wisely steer clear of.

    However, a menu à prezzo fisso ("fixed-price menu") is often a pretty good deal, usually offering a bit more choice than a tourist menu.

    Then—especially at nicer (and pricier) restaurants—there is the menu degustazione ("tasting menu"), usually far more expensive (anywhere from €25 to €110) that is a showcase of the chef's best, or of regional specialties, and can make for an excellent way to sample the kitchen's top dishes.
  • Book ahead: For restaurants that I am truly eager to try, I go ahead and book a table—at least at dinner. I find that a corollary of Murphy's Law seems to apply. If you prudently book ahead, you are likely to show up to a half-empty restaurant and feel a bit like a fool for having worried about finding a table. If, on the other hand, you just show up at the door expecting to find a free table, the place will inevitably be packed and its bookings full for the evening.
Culinary tours of Florence
Italian dining phrases
English (Inglese) Italian (Italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...a restaurant un ristorante oon rees toh-RAHN-tay
...a casual restaurant una trattoria
un'osteria
oo-nah trah-toar-RHEE-yah
oon ohst-air-EE-yah
I would like to reserve... Vorrei prenotare... voar-RAY pray-note-ARE-eh
a table for two una tavola per due oo-nah TAH-voal-lah pair DOO-way
...for 7pm per le sette pair lay SET-tay
...for 7:30pm per le sette e mezzo pair lay SET-tay eh MET-tzoh
...for 8pm per le otto pair lay OH-toh
     
I would like Vorrei... voar-RAY
...some (of) un pó (di) oon POH (dee)
...this questo KWAY-sto
...that quello KWEL-loh
chicken pollo POL-loh
steak bistecca bee-STEAK-ah
veal vitello vee-TEL-oh
fish pesce PEH-shay
meat carne KAR-neh
I am vegetarian sono vegetariano SO-no veg-eh-tair-ee-YAH-no
side dish [veggies always come seperately] cotorno kon-TOR-no
dessert dolce DOAL-chay
and e ay
...a glass of un bicchiere di oon bee-key-YAIR-eh dee
...a bottle of una bottiglia di oo-na boh-TEEL-ya dee
...a half-liter of mezzo litro di MET-tzoh LEE-tro dee
...fizzy water acqua gassata AH-kwah gah-SAHT-tah
...still water acqua non gassata AH-kwah noan gah-SAHT-tah
...red wine vino rosso VEE-noh ROH-so
...white wine vino bianco VEE-noh bee-YAHN-koh
...beer birra BEER-a
Check, please Il conto, per favore eel COAN-toh pair fah-VOAR-eh
Is service included? É incluso il servizio? ay een-CLOU-so eel sair-VEET-zee-yo

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Gelateria Carabé

★★
Via Ricasoli 60r (a block south of the Accademia
tel. +39-055-289-476
www.parcocarbe.it
Closed Mon in winter

Bus: C1; 6, 14, 19, 23 ,31
Hop-on/hop-off: Piazza Libertà Viale Matteotti (C), Libertà (A, B); Independenza (B)

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