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.