Bittersweet Symphony: 2.0 Versions of Affogato in Boston

affogato espresso ice cream

Photograph by Bruce Peterson

In its most traditional form—hot espresso poured over vanilla ice cream—the oldest school of Italian after-dinner treats, the affogato, is a genius melding of contrasts: the sweet, creamy, and cool playing foil to the warm, roasty, and bitter. And as of late, the classic combination has become a springboard for a spate of 2.0 versions in town. At Giulia, chef Michael Pagliarini tops hazelnut gelato with dark-roast George Howell espresso, a splash of Amaro Montenegro, and a chocolate-hazelnut cookie. At wine bar Spoke, meanwhile, chef John daSilva evokes the bitter-meets-sweet flavor of an affogato despite bypassing espresso entirely, instead capping off a scoop of salted-caramel ice cream with chopped peanuts and a tableside pour of 70 percent dark hot chocolate (pictured). “It’s definitely our most popular dessert, especially heading into the winter,” daSilva says of the combination, which was inspired by a frozen Snickers bar. “It satisfies both the ice cream and the cocoa crowd.” At home? Do what we do—keep it simple with a scoop of premium vanilla, add a shot of espresso (or a small splash of strong coffee), and revel in the fact that when it comes to seasonally appropriate ice cream, we really can have it all.

Leah Mennies
Leah Mennies Leah Mennies, Senior Food Editor at Boston Magazine