Top Pick Of The Week

July 4, 2006

. .
Ice Cream Sandwiches
Triple-decker sandwich: the three Ottimo ice cream sandwiches, from top to bottom, are Chocolate Ottimo, chocolate chunk cookies with chocolate gelato; Lemon Ottimo, lemon poppy cookies with lemon gelato; and Espresso Ottimo, chocolate-chocolate chunk cookies with espresso gelato. All photos by Melody Lan.
WHAT IT IS: Ottimo gourmet ice cream sandwiches from Ciao Bella Gelato.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: They’re ultrapremium, made from the finest cookies, from another NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week, Eleni’s NYC, and the outstanding gelatos of award-winning Ciao Bella Gelato.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Ottimo meets a need for a reliable supply of gourmet ice cream sandwiches. They’re a great party food, casual dessert, delicious snack and a welcome gift.

Ottimo Ice Cream Sandwiches:

CAPSULE REPORT: Although it’s an American favorite, it isn’t easy to find a good ice cream sandwich. Unless you’re at a nice restaurant where the pastry chef has created them, you have to get great cookies and ice cream and put them together yourself.

The folks at Ciao Bella Gelato realize that desire to enjoy these treats exceeds the time and energy most people have to execute them. They’ve done all the work by creating Ottimo (“the best” in Italian) “gelato cookie sandwiches,” which we’ll call by the commonly-accepted term, ice cream sandwiches, going forward (see the sidebar below for the difference between ice cream and gelato). Nine delicious sandwiches will arrive at your doorstep. As enormous as they look in the photo, they’re three-inches in diameter: a perfect size to feel satiated by one, and large enough to divide in half to enjoy two different flavors. If the budget allowed, we’d keep the freezer full for year-round snacking; but we’d be thrilled to get shipments for birthdays, hostess gifts and any other reason.

  • To read the full review below, click here. (If your e-mail client does not support anchor links, e.g. AOL, please scroll down.)
  • For more of our favorite dairy products reviewed on, click here.
  • For the table of contents of the July issue of THE NIBBLE™ online magazine, plus the back issues archive and our most popular articles, click here.
  • All of the Top Of The Pick newsletters are permanently archived on in chronological order and by product category.
THE NIBBLE™ does not sell the food products we review or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them. Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their categories.

Must-Have Books for Frozen Dessert Lovers

Frozen Desserts The Ultimate Frozen Dessert Book William Sonoma Mastering: Frozen Desserts

Frozen Desserts: The definitive guide to making ice creams, ices, sorbets, gelati, and other frozen delights, by Caroline Liddell and Robin Weir. What do you get when you combine over 200 recipes with tons of technical advice and a dose of history? A definitive guide to frozen desserts that allows cooks to create classic flavors or new favorites (Basil Flavored Lemon Sorbet, for example). Click here for more information or to purchase.

The Ultimate Frozen Dessert Book, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. There’s way more to frozen desserts than just ice cream sandwiches! Frozen cakes, semi-freddos and gelatos are among the many recipes you’ll find in this comprehensive cookbook. Shortcuts using store-bought ingredients share the stage with homemade specialties, so no matter your time, budget or skill level, there’s a recipe for you. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Williams-Sonoma Frozen Desserts, by Melanie Barnard. This book acts as a mini cooking course, guiding you through the world of frozen desserts from start to finish. Work your way up from a simple ice cream all the way to an elegant torte. Click here for more information or to purchase.

All-American: Ciao Bella Gelato’s Ottimo Ice Cream Sandwiches

July is National Ice Cream Month. What better way to start off the month than with a great ice cream sandwich! Ottimo, Italian for “the best” is made of two best-of-breed ingredients: fresh-baked cookies from Eleni’s, another NIBBLE Top Pick of the Week*, and Ciao Bella’s award-winning gelato. Ciao Bella’s gelatos and sorbetti are frozen splendors of Tahitian vanilla, Belgian chocolate, French purées, real fresh fruit, spices and imported Italian flavorings. When we go to food shows, they are always our “oasis,” the revitalizer we need to get through the rest of the show.

This marriage of two great houses has produced the Ottimo progeny, available in three flavors† that fill a gap in the market for an ultrapremium ice cream sandwich.

*You can read our review of Eleni’s here.   †Specific flavors, or the assortment of flavors, are subject to change. Additional flavors are available to the trade.

On The Menu

Each of the three sandwiches has its own personality.

  • Chocolate Ottimo. Chocolate chunk (chocolate chip) cookies filled with chocolate gelato is the all-American classic, destined to win the popularity vote.
  • Espresso Ottimo. Chocolate-chocolate chunk cookies with espresso gelato is the sophisticate. There aren’t too many espresso ice creams around; we were seduced.  (Photo at right.)
  • Lemon Ottimo. Lemon poppy cookies with lemon gelato are the perky sibling. Light, delicate and summery, they beg to be served at a tea party, luncheon or shower.

Each sandwich is three-inches in diameter and contains three ounces of gelato. The cookies are sold in an assortment of nine, three of each flavor, which arrive individually-wrapped.

Chocolate Chunk Espresso
Half of an Espresso Ottimo with chocolate-chocolate chunk cookies (the Editor’s favorite).

Ottimo Sandwiches


Our only regret is that there aren’t more ice cream sandwich flavors from Ciao Bella Gelato. After you eat a box, you may be inspired to make your own. Our favorite “recipes” include:

  • Chocolate-chocolate chip cookies with chocolate chip mint, pistachio or banana ice cream
  • Molasses clove‡ cookies with ginger or dulce de leche ice cream
  • Chocolate tangerine‡ cookies with strawberry, coconut or French vanilla ice cream
  • Lavender shortbread‡ with lavender or green tea ice cream (shortbread is crunchy, not a pliant cookie...but we can’t resist the lavender)

Sounds like an opportunity for a mix-and-match dessert party!

‡These are actual cookie flavors available from

Comforting Thoughts  

Ice cream sandwiches are comfort food. Like cupcakes, they bring back the joys of childhood in an acceptably adult manner. While ice cream and cookies are reward enough, with an ice cream sandwich, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. So consider how you can reward someone with the greater whole, and order a box of Ottimo ice cream sandwiches for:

  • Parties and special events
  • Birthday and anniversary gifts
  • Congratulatory and feel better wishes
  • New business solicitations

Many gifts are forgettable. While this one will disappear faster than most, it is sure to remain part of any recipient’s happy memories.

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to ice cream-lovers, cookie-lovers and anyone looking for a special dessert, entertaining or gift idea.


Ottimo Gelato Cookie Sandwiches

  • Nine Assorted Gelato Cookie

    Individually Wrapped
    $54.95 Plus Shipping (FedEx)
  • Orders placed through Tuesday night
    will ship on Wednesday for Thursday

Purchase online at

Price and product availability are verified at
publication but are subject to change.
Note: Stonewall Kitchen has begun to sell the Ottimo online, and as of this writing is being promoted on Ciao Bella’s home page. Don’t click through to buy from Stonewall—click on the link above to buy directly from Ciao Bella, or on the red ORDER NOW link at the top right of the Ciao Bella website.

Ottimo Ice Cream Sandwiches
Nine ice cream sandwiches arrive at your doorstep,
three each of three different flavors. (Flavors are
subject to change.)

Read about some of our other
favorite frozen desserts on


If you have a sweet tooth,
or know someone who does,
also check out:

Favorite Ice Cream & Gelato Books

Ice Cream! The Whole Scoop Gelato! Williams-Sonoma: Ice Cream

Ice Cream!: The Whole Scoop, by Gail Damerow. Hungry for more than just recipes? Then check this book out. It’s packed with information about the art of ice cream making, along with recipes for everything from ice creams and sherbets to dairy-free frozen desserts. Technical yet interesting, a sure bet for amateurs and pros alike! Click here for more information or to purchase.

Gelato!: Italian Ice Cream, Sorbetti and Granite, by Pamela Sheldon Johns. Don’t leave all the fun to the pros—try making your own gourmet frozen treats. Get the scoop on the history of Italian ice cream as well as great recipes for gelato, sorbetti and granite. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Williams-Sonoma Collection: Ice Cream, by Mary Goodbody. Don’t let the title fool you—ice cream is far from the sole focus of this book. Over 40 recipes for gelatos, granitas, ice creams and sorbets are featured. And, with a section on basics and a helpful glossary, this book is perfect for even the most inexperienced ice cream maker! Click here for more information or to purchase.

Make Your Own Great Cookies

Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets One Dough, Fifty Cookies Allrecipes Tried and True Cookies
Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets, by Carole Walter. It’s no secret that a great ice cream sandwich starts with a great cookie. With flavors that range from basic (Chocolate Chip) to more complex (Midnight Macaroons), you are sure to find the perfect cookie for your ice cream creation. Click here for more information or to purchase.
One Dough, Fifty Cookies: Baking Favorite and Festive Cookies in a Snap, by Leslie Glover Pendelton. Keep it simple with this collection of cookie recipes that all originate from a single dough. Ideal for those occasions when you are short on time and cookies! Click here for more information or to purchase.
Tried & True Cookies: Top 200 Recipes, by Why bother leafing through hundreds of cookbooks to find the perfect cookie recipe when has done all of the hard work for you? This collection of cookies has been tested by countless home chefs, assuring that every batch you bake will be a success. Click here for more information or to purchase.

You Scream, I Scream...For Gelato

Is gelato the same as ice cream? It’s not the same as American ice cream. Gelato, Italian-style ice cream, has two major points of differentiation: density and butterfat. It has much less overrun (air) so it’s a much more dense product. Ciao Bella in particular contains 20% air by volume, compared to 60% in most American brands. Gelato also has less fat because it’s made with milk and only a little cream. Ice cream generally contains more cream than milk. As a result, most superpremium ice creams in the U.S. have a butterfat content of 15% to 18%; gelato’s butterfat content normally runs from 4% to 14% (Ciao Bella’s is 12%). The greater amount of butterfat in ice cream tends to coat the tongue and the taste buds. The lower butterfat level of gelato allows more of the flavor of the fruits, nuts, chocolate et al to shine through. In addition, gelato recipes tend to have a higher proportion of flavoring than ice cream. The end result is a heightened flavor.

Gelato can be a special treat for frozen dessert lovers. Unfortunately, because it is so labor-intensive, many sellers of gelato use pre-prepared commercial mixes. Making strawberry gelato from a base mix and adding strawberry flavor does not yield anywhere near the same type of product as making a purée of fresh strawberries and mixing it into fresh milk. It is a far cry from the fresh gelato made by artisan producers like Ciao Bella Gelato in New Jersey, Capogiro Gelato Artisans in Philadelphia, Il Laboratorio del Gelato in New York City and Palazzolo’s Artisan Gelato & Sorbetto in Michigan. Artisanal gelato is made from the freshest milk, fruits, nuts and other ingredients: the whole purpose behind gelato is to create an intense, fresh flavor experience. Before you’re disappointed by your gelato purchase, figure out how to ask the question at the gelateria, e.g., “do you start your gelato from scratch and purée the fresh fruit yourself?” Some gelato-makers buy fresh fruit that is already puréed to save time—that’s O.K. too.

For more information on gelato, read these articles in THE NIBBLE™ online magazine:

How To Make Ice Cream Sandwiches

  • Choose your cookies. The Eleni’s cookies used for the Ottimo sandwiches are not available for direct sale to consumers, so we like to use Dancing Deer cookies, which come in bewitching flavors like Molasses Clove, Chocolate Tangerine, Sugar Cane Lime, Cherry Almond Ginger Chews and Mango Coconut Macadamia (the cookies are certified kosher by Star-K).
  • Select your favorite ice cream, gelato or sorbetto.
  • Soften the ice cream—either in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes or at room temperature for about 5 minutes, depending on the size of the container and the temperature of the room. The goal is to soften the ice cream without melting it.
  • Place an empty cookie sheet in the freezer, so sandwiches can be immediately transferred and frozen as you make them.
  • Add a generous dollop of softened ice cream to the center of the “bottom” cookie (topside facing downward).
  • Add the top cookie (bottom-side downward), and press just until the ice cream reaches the edges. There should be ¾" to 1" of ice cream layered in-between.
  • Place sandwiches on a tray in freezer and let them set for at least 1 hour before eating. If you do not plan to eat them within a few hours, wrap them tightly with plastic wrap after they have set for an hour.
  • For more information, read our article, Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwiches.

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