It has become cliché to say that this street or that street is the “new Magazine” for restaurants, but I’ll be damned if it’s not pretty accurate when it comes to Freret Street. It’s fascinating to have watched the transformation of the stretch of the street between Napoleon and Jefferson avenues over the last few years. From the date places like Cure, High Hat Café and Ancora Pizzeria opened, smart money was on developers following, but I’m not sure anyone predicted the extent of the growth. Late last year, Piccola Gelateria joined Freret Beer Room, Bar Frances, Halal Guys and Blaze Pizzeria as the most recent bar/restaurants to open.
Piccola is located at 4525 Freret St., #103, in the same development that houses Bar Frances. The welcoming space offers house-made gelato, espresso, piadine (flatbread sandwiches) and crepes. Ria and Ross Turnbull are the owners, and it’s clearly a family business. When I first visited, both proprietors were on-site, cooking and serving.
Ria, who is originally from Sarajevo, told me they have a total of about 400 different gelato recipes. Classic flavors like hazelnut, pistachio and, of course, chocolate and vanilla are always available. They offer 18 choices at a time, and change the selection of specialty flavors frequently; as they run out of one, they simply replace it with something new.
The interior is designed towards comfort, with couches, wide-backed leather chairs and low coffee tables on one wall, and more standard sized tables on another. There’s also seating on the porch that fronts Freret Street, and I can see those seats being prize real estate during warmer months.
I fell in love with gelato when I visited Italy as a student in the late 1980’s. I hit a lot of gelateria during the weeks I was there, and while I wouldn’t call myself an expert, I did come upon a method of determining whether a place was worth my time: I tried the vanilla. If that passed my wildly subjective test, I figured they knew what they were doing. The vanilla at Piccola passes my test, as do the chocolate, the salted peanut and the amarena-cherry. More importantly, perhaps, my kids loved all four flavors as well.
Piadine include a breakfast option with an over-medium egg, ham, greens and Stracchino cheese; one with smoked turkey, fresh Burrata and heirloom tomato; and a vegetarian option with tomato, greens, and both Stracchino and Burrata cheeses. Savory crepes have similar fillings, but you can also get them with any flavor of gelato, Nutella or butter and sugar.
Piccola is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Call 954-617-8141 to find out what seasonal flavors of gelato they have today.