Caravaggio Italian Gelato- The Best Gelato in SF Bay Area
It has been far too long since I’ve spent time in Italy roaming from gelateria to salumeria, engaging in culinary debauchery of the best kind. On sunny afternoons I often find myself missing those moments where my taste buds were constantly made love to by the world’s best flavors and ingredients. While living in California these days, I’ve been fortunate to come across a small gelateria in the heart of Berkeley, serving up the best gelato in SF Bay Area, owned by Italians using good old Italian recipes, as reminiscent of my times in Italy as I can find in America.
Named after the Italian painter from the 16th century, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, this charming gelateria is strict about using the best of California and Italian ingredients, sourcing non-hormone dairy, organic fruits and nuts, high-end chocolates and real Italian coffee. The results? A menu with about half a dozen constant flavors including my personal favorites- Fior di Latte (Flower of the Milk- can the name of a frozen treat get any more romantic?!) and Gianduja (mix of Hazelnut and Chocolate).
For those of you who are vegan or lactose-intolerant, fear not, Caravaggio has wonderful flavors that are in no way “settling options.” I often can’t decide between my usual go-to of Gianduja and more tropical options like Passionfruit (vegan) and Mango (also vegan). Especially during hot summer months, those sorbets are perfection.
One of my favorite aspects of Caravaggio’s gelato is that not a single one of the flavors is laden with sugar. Each is lightly sweet enough to tantalize our dessert taste buds without an onslaught of sugar rush and crash or the ensuing feeling of overwhelming guilt. Portions are wonderfully European (as opposed to gargantuan American scoops). Also can’t-miss is Caravaggio’s house-made waffle cones- again, very European, thin, lightly crunchy but still moist and flavorful without being overly sweet. They bake them a few times a day so you may get lucky and catch them fresh out of the oven.
For those of you seeking a light lunch or snack along with your gelato, Caravaggio does a simple but spot-on Piadina, an Italian flatbread with thin layers of stuffing of which there are several options. You can do the traditional prosciutto and mozzarella or a vegetarian option. The Piadinas are served with side dishes such as soup and a refreshing mint herb yogurt.
Inside Caravaggio, there is a long wooden table in the middle that seats anywhere from 4 to 8 people depending on how tightly you squeeze in, in addition to a few window seats (great for watching people and cute dogs walking by) as well as 3 seats at their make-shift tiny wine bar. A few outdoor seats available weather permitting. It’s a small gelateria heavy on the charm with usually very friendly service and at least one of the owners is almost always on hand.
A big screen television plays behind the gelato station, shuffling through random videos and images of Italy. Stand in front of it while enjoying your scoop or affogato (coffee here is good) and you could almost feel transported to the streets of Milan or Tuscany.