In summer, there are just a couple of things that lisboetas will queue for: the beach and ice cream. The city is blessed with good places for both, but between the two, we prefer the latter, which in Lisbon tends to be Italian-style gelato, as served in the most long-lived and successful shops in town.
Tucked away in a corner of Restauradores, A Veneziana still has the same façade and is run by the same family as when it opened in 1936. The shop is small, with a big esplanada, or terrace, on which customers can sit and enjoy their treats. Maria Odete has been working there for 43 years and still enjoys eating cassata, the house speciality, which layers together ricotta, vanilla and chocolate ice cream with strawberry sauce and candied fruit, whipped cream and toasted almonds. Another popular specialty is the “spaghetti” flavor, which is vanilla with strawberry sauce and crushed meringue.
Laboratório do Gelado is the newest prodigy in town, led by the 24-year-old Pedro Viana. Betting on good old chemistry, Viana started this high-tech ice cream shop in Alvalade, the neighborhood where he was born, in January. Each portion is mixed and instantly frozen to order in front of you using liquid nitrogen – a bit of theater with your scoop. Inspired by a shop he came across on a trip to Australia, he also distinguishes his product with high-quality, unusual ingredients, including gold dust, silver leaf, eucalyptus, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk with organic honey, tropical fruit from Brazil and exceptional cacao from São Tomé and Príncipe.
A true institution whose original location is in the seaside town of Cascais, Santini was so beloved that lisboetas would drive 30 minutes west of the city to stand in line for ice cream at the shop. Thankfully, there is now a branch in Lisbon. Founded by Italian native Attilio Santini in 1949, the shop has churned out a great deal of joy for generations. European royalty living in Cascais were regulars at the original location and are among those documented in the nostalgic black-and-white photos in the shop. Santini is best known for its extraordinarily fresh-tasting strawberry gelato, as well as for the excellent cones made in-house.
Newcomer Gelato Davvero in Cais do Sodré celebrated its first birthday in July. Before opening the shop, Riccardo Farabegoli had been working in graphic design and advertising and Filippo Licitra had co-founded another great gelato shop, Nannarela, in Lisbon’s São Bento neighborhood. Davvero uses fresh fruit mainly from the nearby Mercado da Ribeira as well as almonds from Sicily and hazelnuts from the Piedmont region in northern Italy. Notable among the many amazing flavors – some, like the pistachio and almond, made without sugar – are requeijão (similar to ricotta) with walnut and fig and salted caramel. Farabegoli explained to us that the quality of the gelato comes in part from the spring water they use. They have another location in Cacilhas.
Tiny and crowded, Conchanata in Alvalade is another Italian classic. Run by the Tarlattini family since 1947, it has had the same décor since it opened. The main attraction here is the conchanata – two scoops of strawberries and cream with a lush strawberry sauce on top.
Originally from Milan, Moreno Gorrara fell in love with Lisbon on his first trip to the city and started to spend all his holidays here. In 2014 he moved here and opened FIB (Felicidade Interna Bruta, or “Gross National Happiness”) in Areeiro, a neighborhood close to the airport, with flavors including pistachio, salted caramel, lemon with ginger and tiramisu. Since then, he has introduced Portuguese flavors like Maria biscuit and rice pudding and also serves Sicilian brioche, a sandwich with gelato and whipped cream.
In the busy downtown, Fragoleto has earned a legion of fans in part through its use of organic produce and natural flavors. Owner Manuela Carabina offers distinctive scoops such as rice pudding, tea, watermelon, plum and cheesecake, and her newest creation is a range of ice cream made with Arrábida craft beer. Get in line.