Silvia D’Italia Gelato Café anchors the Electric Company building at the northeast corner of Hillsborough and Pogue Streets. On a warm evening during the middle of the week, one customer was at the counter when my two companions and I walked in about 8:30. We surveyed the 24 flavors of gelato, an Italian frozen dessert similar to ice cream but denser and more strongly flavored. The serving clerk said 50 flavors are made, but they are not all available at once. Some have ordinary names like chocolate, strawberry or peanut butter. Others are more exotic delights to tickle one’s taste buds: mango, hazelnut and lemon ice. A few are difficult to pronounce, such as zabagione, which is a mustard-colored concoction also known as wine custard, and stracciatella, or Romeo and Juliet, which is white cream with slivers of Italian dark chocolate.
I chose the seasonal pumpkin spice; my buddies selected hazelnut and chocolate hazelnut. Each is delicious, but the prices are a bit steep. A piccolo (extra small) costs $1.99, and a large, which I can’t imagine being able to finish—not because it is a huge amount but because the stuff is so rich—will set a poor customer back nearly four dollars.
The café’s menu also includes reasonably priced Italian sandwiches called panini, as well as salads, coffees and cocoa, and assorted cold drinks, including a variety of Italian sodas. There is even a kid’s menu with peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese or ham and cheese.
The café walls are painted in warm shades of peach, orange and muted yellow-tan. Funky lights that look like flying saucers hang over the gelato bins and another case, which holds trays of cookies, cheesecake and muffins.
Seating is limited inside, with two small, round tables and an L-shaped counter with bar stools. Outside are several metal tables and many stackable plastic seats. The clerks working that night were attentive and efficient but not talkative. The place was clean, with a health rating of 98.5 posted behind the counter.
Three things about the experience struck a minor chord. A small Sticky Note on the cash register informs customers that there is a $5 minimum for credit or debit purchases and that purchases under $5 will be charged a 40-cent surcharge. Also, the freezer fan roared on and off every couple of minutes, making it difficult to converse. The café’s hours are somewhat odd. It is open Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m., and Sundays noon until 10:30 p.m.
I plan to return to Silvia D’Italia Gelato Café to try a sandwich or a salad, and I doubt I’ll be able to resist a piccolo gelato. LJB