BELLA FRESCO CAFE, 8200 Providence Road, 980-949-6131.
On this very American of holidays, it may seem like sacrilege to start off talking about the Italian version of ice cream. Do cut me some slack; Im listing these places alphabetically. Plus, this Arboretum-area restaurant has some truly amazing flavors starting with pink grapefruit. Its just like the real thing, only less bitter. The watermelon also tastes true to its name. The creaminess of the vibrantly green pistachio tastes most like traditional American ice cream. Incidentally, the differences between ice cream and gelato have to do with butter fat and density. While both ice cream and gelato are made with milk, ice cream generally has a higher percentage of butter fat than gelato. Ice cream also contains more air, making it a fluffier product than the dense gelato.
CABARRUS CREAMERY, 21 Union St. S., Concord, 704-784-1923.
Cabarrus has been a working creamery since 1923. On any given day it offers 25-30 flavors, most of which are made on-site. The scoops are massive. Actually, everything the creamery serves is massive. A banana split comes in a huge paper dish and contains three scoops of ice cream (fudge ripple, praline, and banana are good choices). Want something a mite smaller? The homemade ice cream sandwich (the chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream with the double chocolate chunk cookie is a popular combination) is an option.
CAROLINA CREAMERY, 11300 Lawyers Road, Mint Hill, 704-545-0401.
For more than 30 years, the Choi family has operated this Mint Hill scoop shop. All the flavors are made in-house and there are 48 to choose from. Mint Oreo or Smurf ice cream, anyone? Whatever you try, do get it on one of the heavenly smelling waffle cones.
MOORESVILLE ICE CREAM COMPANY, 186 N. Broad St., Mooresville, 704-664-5456.
If you cant make it to Mooresville, the products of this 90-year-old establishment are sold in area grocery stores under the Front Porch and Deluxe labels. But theres nothing like slurping a malted milkshake or a root beer float on-site.
PIKES OLD FASHIONED SODA SHOP, 1930 Camden Road, 704-372-0092.
Speaking of root beer floats, Pikes has an ice cream soda that tastes like one. Its called the Black Cow. Root beer syrup is layered with vanilla ice cream and soda water. If youre lucky, you can score a seat at the counter to drink your cow.
TONYS ICE CREAM COMPANY, 604 E. Franklin Blvd., Gastonia, 704-853-0018.
Next year Tonys celebrates its 100th anniversary. Owner Louis Coletta says his grandfather delivered ice cream in a horse- drawn wagon and his father delivered the products in his old Chevy. During all that time, the family continued to make their ice cream the same way which includes making sure the ice cream is intensely flavored. Coletta says if they didnt, their milkshakes would taste weak. By the way, those milkshakes (the peach and pineapple flavors are good choices) are made with just ice cream and whole milk. Just like you would at home, Coletta said.