A Taste of Italy in WA’s Bavarian Village

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of getting acquainted with the town of Leavenworth, in Washington State.

K’s parents, who live in a small condo in downtown Seattle, treat this town as their “mountain oasis.” Nestled among the Cascade Mountains, Leavenworth is a prime location for many outdoor activities. In the winter, you’ll find K’s parents skiing or snowshoeing. In the summer, they’ll be hiking, mountain biking, or tubing down the Wenatchee River. Because they love it so much, K and I decided to spend his birthday weekend with his parents in Leavenworth. And I, too, fell head-over-heels for this mountain town.

But because I’m not the outdoor-sporty-type, I fell in love with Leavenworth for different reasons. First and foremost, this mountain town is modeled after a Bavarian village. Imagine Disney World-caliber without all the cheesiness. Leavenworth’s local businesses take the Bavarian theme very seriously. Even the Starbucks and Safeway stores were designed in the quintessentially-Bavarian style. The downtown area is small, but it boasts multiple beer gardens and knick-knack shops. Plus, majestic snow-capped mountains are visible from every angle. Every time I walk down the main street, I’m overcome with an urge to belt out songs from “The Sound of Music.”

As you’d expect in any good tourist town, Leavenworth boasts a high ice-cream shops-per-capita ratio. Most ice-cream spots are housed within larger candy or gift stores, but I walked by a gelateria the day we arrived in Leavenworth. The Viadolce Gelateria sits in the heart of downtown, its large windows and open door inviting folks inside. Through the windows, I spotted a large case containing more than a dozen colorful gelato bins. Just then, a customer exited the shop, “mmm”ing while he licked a giant delicious-looking cone. I had to practice some serious self-control to walk past the store. But K’s mom loves ice cream almost as much as I do, so I wanted to wait until I could return with her.

The next night, we all enjoyed a nice bratwurst dinner together in the München Haus beer garden. The restaurant is just a block away from Viadolce, so I offered to treat K’s parents to gelato on our walk back to their place. It was a sweltering-hot night (over 100 degrees), and ice cream sounded really good. We ducked into Viadolce Gelateria and surveyed the options.
They carried about 18 different flavors, many of which were fruity “sorbettos”. The Pear looked delicious, but I’ve been disappointed by all pear-flavored gelatos outside of Italy itself. Plus, I had already spotted a bin of Cherry gelato.  Everyone who’s spent time in the Pacific Northwest during the summer knows what a BIG deal cherries are here. K’s and my favorite variety is the Rainier, which is only in-season during the early months of summer. Our local Whole Foods store in Washington, DC does carry Rainier cherries for a couple months, but they cost us ~$15 per pound. At Viadolce, I could get my fix of fresh Washington cherries for a fraction of the cost. I ordered a small size, and the nice man behind the counter asked if I wanted one or two flavors. You know what my answer was. I asked him what flavor would pair well with cherry, and he suggested Panna (Italian cream).

Cherry and Panna

The verdict? There is nothing as refreshing as ice cream on a hot and humid evening. Viadolce’s gelato felt cool and soft on my tongue, and I savored the flavors melting over my taste buds. Unlike most ice cream I find in touristy towns, the gelato at Viadolce wasn’t sugary-sweet. Both the Cherry and the Panna had a subtle sweetness, allowing the flavors of cherries and cream to stand out. A little sign in the Cherry gelato bin had warned that “gelato may contain pieces of cherry pits”, and they weren’t exaggerating! I literally found a couple small pit pieces in my cup. But it was a small price to pay for the authentic flavor of real cherries. While the creamy and mild Panna wasn’t exactly memorable, I would imagine it would pair well with any fruity flavor.

The others enjoyed their gelato, too – especially K’s dad, who proclaimed that the Toasted Almond was one of the best ice creams he’d ever tasted! I’ll have to give that flavor a try next time… when I return to Leavenworth for its annual Oktoberfest Festival! Stay tuned…

The Stats:
Viadolce Gelato
636 Front Street
Leavenworth, WA 98826
(509) 548-6712
http://www.viadolcegelato.com