I have a Red Sox T-shirt that says, "Married Into It." Well, I had the good fortune to "marry into" something else equally as awesome in the Boston area...a family of ice cream makers. Yes, my husband has not one -- but two -- cousins who own ice cream shops in the Boston area and specialize in high-quality, homemade ice cream in unique and innovative flavors.
Although we live in the Washington DC area, we try to get up to Boston every so often. On our most recent trip in August, we surprised my husband's cousin Joe Rancatore, the owner of Rancatore's Ice Cream Shop in Lexington (and another in Belmont), with a visit. He happened to be in the back making ice cream when we arrived at the shop, so we were fortunate enough to get a sneak peak into the ice cream making process. Our 10 and 12-year old sons especially enjoyed this!
Not only does Joe use only the highest quality ingredients in his ice cream, he's constantly coming up with new flavor combinations. And many are gluten free. (Obviously, flavors like hydrox, grapenut raisin, and Irish coffee-and-cookies are not!) The best thing is, his staff is very proactive about knowing which flavors are gluten free so they can accurately answer customer's questions. They love being able to take care of people (especially kids) with special dietary needs.
Although the ice cream shop is not a dedicated gluten free environment, Joe is careful to thoroughly clean the ice cream machines between runs. They get hot rinsed, disinfected, and hot rinsed again before production can start on a new flavor. Best of all, for customers who cannot eat gluten or nuts, the staff member cleans an ice cream scoop and gets a serving of ice cream from a "fresh"untouched tub in the back freezer.
We were lucky enough to sample some incredible flavors, from traditional vanilla (theirs is the best I've had!) to Saffron City. Saffron City is a blend of saffron, cardamom, pure vanilla extract, pistachios, almonds, and cashews. With all those nuts and spices, you could even argue it's healthy! Khulfi is a similar, but simpler, play on flavors: cardamom, pure vanilla extract, pistachios, and almonds. They were both, in my opinion, to-die-for. Where else can you find unique flavors like this?
They also have quite an extensive assortment of yogurts and sorbets, including flavors like mango, chocolate mousse, coconut, green tea, and strawberry rhubarb. Be sure to check out the Menu page on their website. New ice cream flavors include Thai peanut (peanut butter, coconut, cayenne pepper, and peanut pieces), salted caramel (still very popular), pumpkin, and cinnamon nutmeg (coming at the end of September). That just may be enough to get our family back to Boston!!
This location is on Massachusetts Avenue in the heart of Lexington. There's a second location on Leonard Steet in Belmont, and Joe's brother Gus Rancatore owns Toscanini's Ice Cream Shop in Cambridge.