The French Quarter location of La Divina Gelateria, a café and glorious gelateria, can be found at 621 St. Peter, just within earshot of Jackson Square.
While living in Florence, Italy, owners Katrina and Carmelo Turillo grew to love the widespread Italian custom of strolling in the evening while enjoying a scoop or several of Italian ice cream, or to give it its proper title, gelato. On returning to New Orleans they decided to open La Divina Uptown, and give authentic gelato the chance to bring further ease to living in the Big Easy. And having tasted La Divina's gelato, it is easy to see why.
It is a beautiful little place, bright and breezy. The bright orange sunshade that protects customers from the changeable New Orleans weather makes the café seem as if it is sheltering underneath a warm glowing sunset, and inside the walls are covered with black and white Mardi Gras photographs, as well as paintings by local artists. Talk about cool...and we're not just talking about the gelato.
This year marks the first time that La Divina gelato can be found where it will not only be enjoyed, but might even actually be needed - as those who have experienced the often merciless heat of Jazz Fest can attest to.
"Have you been to Jazz Fest?" asked second generation Italian, La Divina partner, and Brooklynite David Marinello.
"It's hot out there. There's no shade, there's no place to hide. What better way to cool off that a bit of ice cream?"
There is a lot more to La Divina's gelato than might meet the eye, but what the eye misses the taste- buds definitely don't. By using local produce and some ingredients that might surprise the gelato novice, Italian iice cream takes on a decided New Orleans spins at the Jazz Fest.
Alongside New Orleans' favorites, such as Banana Foster, Bourbon Pecan, Cookies and Cream, Crème Brulee, and Café au Lait, visitors and locals can also experience the flavors of Sweet Potato, Creole Cream Cheese, Chocolate Azteca, Absinthe, Coco Thai, Pineapple Mint, and Strawberry Balsamic.
"In terms of health gelato is better than regular ice-cream," explained David.
"Basically there is three main differences. There is half the butterfat in gelato than there is in ice-cream. That leaves more room for the flavors, for the chocolate, strawberries, and vanilla - whatever you are putting in it. There is less air whipped into it, so it is thicker, richer and creamier, and because of that you eat less. It is also served at a warmer temperature, about five to seven degrees warmer than regular ice cream. It holds together better, and it doesn't numb out your taste buds as much. So it is better product overall...and you don't get that brain freeze from it."
"Strawberries with balsamic vinegar is an old Italian dessert. People say vinegar and ice," David went on.
"But once you get them taste it...well. We have done a bacon gelato at one point. We cured the bacon with cane sugar syrup and made gelato out of it, and it was wonderful. You just have to work against the public perception of it. One of our most popular flavors is our chocolate Azteca, which is a dark chocolate with cinnamon, and just a tiny bit of cayenne. You get that little burn at the back."
Being Scottish one of the gelatos that immediately caught my attention was the Glenlivet Single Malt, and I have to say that it went down very well...the richness of the gelato in no way overpowering the whisky.
The Chocolate Azteca was dark, and deliciously bitter, and the final kick of cayenne brought to mind the ‘farewell' that you taste in the better champagnes.
The Strawberry Balsamic was sharp and ripe with bright strawberry flavors, and it didn't coat your tongue in that sickly way that many ice creams do.
I don't know if it was David's Brooklyn accent - is there a Don Gelato in New York? - or that the gelato was just that delicious but I was sold. Any offer of La Divina gelato is going to be an offer that I won't be able to refuse.