Caffe Panna Ice Cream Shop

Someone from San Francisco told me that there were now too many ice cream shops in the city. I didn’t think that was possible, but I guess things have changed since I moved away. (There are also some amazing bakeries there as well, which I don’t think is anything to grouse about either.) Just like in San Francisco, not only has the baking scene in New York really ramped up, but the ice cream scene as well, including Caffè Panna, the latest addition.

[NOTE: Caffè Panna will be making a special sundae of a flavor combination that I inspired, with buckwheat ice cream, buckwheat honey, dark chocolate, and French whisky. I’ll be there this Saturday, October 12, from 2pm to 3:30pm. More info at the end of this post.]

Hallie Meyer is the owner of this Italian-inspired cafe and ice cream shop, which offers up a selection of coffee drinks, as well as a menu of ice cream flavors that changes daily. Hallie is the daughter of restaurateur Danny Meyer, so it’s in her DNA to foray into the food business. Like me, Hallie worked at an ice cream shop in college. She later cooked at the American Academy in Rome, as well as at a gelato shop in Rome as well.

When she returned to the States, she enrolled in AmeriCorps, working in community service at an underperforming school in the South Bronx. While there, she started churning up ice cream and creating a cooking club for the students on Friday afternoons.

Inspired by the gelaterias in Rome, she finally opened Caffè Panna in Manhattan. Panna is Italian for cream, and gelato in Italy is often served with panna; with a dollop of whipped cream on top. As I mentioned in The Perfect Scoop, some visitors are surprised by that and scrape it off once outside (which I’ve seen in Italy.) But to Hallie, the whipped cream was her favorite part, and she even named a previous ice cream venture Tripla Panna, since she loves it so much. (She told me tripla panna was her nickname in Rome, as she was known at her local gelateria for always ordering three scoops of gelato.) So it’s the policy at Caffè Panna that whipped cream can be added to any cup or cone of ice cream at no extra charge.

All ice creams sold in the shop are churned daily, and any left over at the end of the day get packed into pints and sold to go. At present, Hallie rotates through five changes flavors each day, but there are five that stay constant (subject to change); Vanilla, Chocolate, White Coffee Stracciatella (coffee bean-chocolate chip), and Red Flag, strawberry ice cream studded with graham brittle.

Of utmost importance are the quality of ingredients, including pistachio and hazelnut paste from Italy, and the famed hazelnuts from Piedmont, which are what the top pastry chefs in Paris use as well.

So that green scribble you see on the ice cream is Sicilian pistachio paste thinned with olive oil, but no colorants.

Hallie and pastry chef Beth Wieber also use Amano bean-to-bar chocolate for the stracciatella, either the Dos Rios from the Dominican Republic, or Raspberry-Rose, which you’d think might conflict with the other flavors – vanilla and chocolate – but it’s perfectly balanced, and even someone like me, who’s not a big fan of raspberries and chocolate, will love it as much as I do.

Affogato is the Italian way of pouring hot coffee over ice cream, and it’s one of the great culinary inventions, marrying two things Italians do so well. Like the ice cream flavors that change daily, there are daily affogato and sundae specials, too.

Each sundae includes two flavors of ice cream, one crunchy element, a drizzle or scribble of sauce, and whipped cream. The one with the pistachio drizzle shown at the top of this post is made with ricotta ice cream swirled with orange, Sicilian pistachio crunch, raspberry sorbet, and orange-flavored panna.

I’ve been in a few times since they opened a little over a week ago, and one of the best sundaes they had was made with hazelnut ice cream, above. It’s got a sweet potato-cinnamon “goo” made by massaging sweet potato cinnamon buns (made by Millers & Makers in Brooklyn, who Hallie says are truly a mom & pop business, and make “the best cinnamon buns I’ve ever had”) with caramel, then topped with a cream cheese drizzle.

Cones are baked in-house using lingua di gatto, “cat’s tongue” butter cookie batter, and rolled up throughout the day. And are just one of the many items on their daily prep list.

Ingredients for the fruit swirls are sourced from the local greenmarket, just a few blocks away in Union Square, and others are from purveyors who source with the same care that Hallie does.

Plans are afoot to offer Italian pastries to go along with the ice creams or coffee, and the terrazzo bar will be put to good use in the afternoon with Italian aperitivi drinks and snacks.

To celebrate the opening, I’ll be in at Caffè Panna this Saturday from 2 to 3:30pm. Stop by for some ice cream…and to say hi to me and Hallie!

Caffè Panna
77 Irving Place (at 19th Street)
New York, NY
(917) 475-1162
Check website for hours

Caffe Panna Ice Cream Shop

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27 comments

  • Molly F. C.
    October 10, 2019 2:28pm

    At first glance I thought it was broccolini atop this ice cream! I’ll be in NYC in November for a very brief stay. Visiting this shop is now on my list of where to go.

    • Gail
      October 10, 2019 4:23pm

      me too – and I thought the article was going to be about either how ice cream flavorings had jumped the shark, witness, this concoction. Or that somehow they’d made even broccolini taste good on ice cream.

      I actually unclenched when I realized it was pistachio. Whew.

    • kc
      October 11, 2019 10:49am

      I also thought it was broccoli

      • October 11, 2019 4:07pm
        David Lebovitz

        While Italians do interesting things with vegetables for dessert (I once had a terrific candied eggplant, which is technically a fruit but is usually treated like a vegetable, that was stuffed with ricotta and chocolate – and I’ve also had celery gelato), the bright green color are the famed Bronte pistachios from Sicily.

  • Susan Gottlieb
    October 10, 2019 2:54pm

    At first while I was reading this (and drooling), I resolved to put it on my to do list for my next trip to Paris. What a happy surprise to learn that it is in NY! See you Saturday! (I agree about the broccolini but probably would have tried it even so if you had recommended it, David.)

  • s
    October 10, 2019 3:19pm

    The first time I had gelato with whipped cream on top was in Rome at a little stand – rice gelato. It was heaven!

  • Lance
    October 10, 2019 4:18pm

    Mmmm! Pistachio! It looks like broccoli and tomato plate scrapings. Unfortunate.

    • October 10, 2019 6:07pm
      David Lebovitz

      That is the natural color of the Bronte pistachios from Sicily. It is a vivid green but they’re such special pistachios in flavor (and in color) that Hallie wants to use them.

    • jane
      October 11, 2019 9:48pm

      I can’t believe all the people thinking it was broccoli? On ice cream? Of course it’s pistachio!
      I guess our American pistachios are so insipidly pale that most people have forgotten that pistachio’s are GREEN. The state of what passes for American agriculture is just a disaster.

      Anyhoo – these all look amazingly good. Needless to say I cherish artisanal production where ever possible and the currently very unAmerican Attention to Quality. Thank God for chefs like Hallie Meyer.

  • Mary F
    October 10, 2019 4:22pm

    This looks so wonderful and I was initially feeling bummed that it was a few thousand miles away in San Francisco, which has so many places on my bucket list…but I was WRONG! It’s a mere train ride away from my Hudson Valley home, so am heading down tomorrow! YUM!!! Thanks so much for the heads up David!!

  • heidih
    October 10, 2019 4:41pm

    Wow – I’m in at my next NYC visit. Great images. Particularly like the clip-board with her hand-written notes. It is who we are :)

    • October 10, 2019 6:08pm
      David Lebovitz

      I often take pictures like that (I ask first!) because I think prep lists are really interesting. Plus her handwriting was so beautiful I wanted to include it in the post.

    • FREMAJANE WOLFSON
      October 11, 2019 1:12am

      A chip off the old block!
      Fantastic! I’ll be in town in November. Can’t wait to try it!!!
      Great send off you gave Halle
      Thanks!
      Fjwolfson

  • Bill McKinley
    October 10, 2019 6:08pm

    David, hate to be an English Major, but there are one too many “now”s in the first sentence.

  • Mike C.
    October 10, 2019 6:25pm

    My wife and I were in NYC last week, and we stopped by Caffe Panna (in large part because when we were in Italy for our honeymoon, we loved the whipped cream that came on top of the gelato, particularly at Giolitti). At Caffe Panna, we tried many flavors and they were all extremely delicious and unique. Really good. BUT… what we didn’t realize until we got there was that they are serving ice cream instead of gelato. I actually do like ice cream more than gelato so that was not a problem. But, the reason whipped cream works so well with gelato is that gelato does not have as much cream so the panna acts as a nice balance. In contrast, the ice cream at Caffe Panna is very creamy (which is not a bad thing); but, as a result, adding whipped cream to it doesn’t really enhance it so much. It is pretty superfluous and just tends to muddle the flavor of the ice cream. So, I highly recommend going to Caffe Panna, but, ironically, don’t necessarily recommend getting the free panna!

  • Ellen A.
    October 10, 2019 9:14pm

    All looks scrumptious, and Hallie is just adorable. Best of luck to her. Wish I was in NYC to try out her delicious treats.

  • susan
    October 10, 2019 9:17pm

    This looks delish. Can you give pointers for best ice cream/ gelato makers at present, David.
    Thanks

  • Frances S
    October 10, 2019 9:33pm

    I’m just back from Marin where I had soft serve made from buffalo milk. At a restaurant in Bolinas, they served it with olive oil and salt. Delicious!

    • Carol Goodin
      October 20, 2019 7:09pm

      If they have buffalo, are they making buffalo mozzarella in Marin? I read of people trying to raise them without success….

  • Rachel
    October 11, 2019 2:36am

    Wow, I love everything about this! Traditional but wildly original at the same time. Times like this Australia feels very far away from the rest of the world. Very best of luck to Hallie.

  • Paul
    October 13, 2019 6:45am

    David – may we see you in Seattle soon at the NW Chocolate Festival?
    https://www.nwchocolate.com/

    All – is there a way to buy Marco Colzani’s spreads in the US without paying an arm and a leg – see for example, Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread.
    Thanks!

  • October 13, 2019 11:34am
    David Lebovitz

    Paul: The organizers didn’t ask me to come but it sounds like a fun event. That hazelnut/chocolate spread is expensive due to the quality of ingredients. This chocolate-hazelnut spread is about a third less in price, and it’s very good as well.

    Bill: Sorry…fixed!

    susan: I did a round-up of ice cream makers here.

    • Paul
      October 13, 2019 11:02pm

      Thank you David!

      By the way we were in Paris recently and went to some of the places you recommended for food and chocolate. All were exceptional – thank you! Of note was the amazing chocolate hazelnut spread at Alain Ducasse; alas, not to be found in the US. Jean-Charles Rochoux‘s was very good too, but there we loved the pistachio dark chocolate bar: https://www.jcrochoux.com/en/chocolate-bars/106-noir-pistache.html

  • Arturo
    October 13, 2019 6:03pm

    Just had a buckwheat ice cream at Frenchie bar a vin along with a duo of chocolate mousse. So good. Buckwheat does seem to be having a moment in Paris.

  • aimee
    October 16, 2019 3:43am

    This is so lovely! I worked at one of her father’s restaurants about 10 years ago and she spent a day with us in the pastry kitchen. She was an older teen at the time and so interested and patient and polite. How fantastic that she is doing well!

  • October 31, 2019 6:39pm

    There is almost nothing better than pistachio paste from italy. I wish she would open up in Paris. So imaginative! And i used to live so close to irving Place..

  • Adrian
    November 3, 2019 1:53pm

    Wow! I love Marco Colzani‘s pistachio cream! The best.