Gorgeous Gelato has, for almost two years, dominated the Portland gelato scoop shop scene from their post at 434 Fore St, while The Gelato Fiasco scooped up handmade gelato in Brunswick and got their product into the Hannaford freezer case. Now that The Gelato Fiasco has opened up their second retail shop, strategically placing themselves at 425 Fore St, directly across the street from their rival and right next door to Five Guys Burgers (making a fairly decadent fast-food meal combination), these two frozen treat powerhouses will go head to head for the hearts and taste-buds of Portland’s summer visitors and local aficionados of creamy delicious treats. If they can both survive (and I, personally, think there is absolutely room in the city for these two shops to peacefully coexist) the city’s food scene will be the richer for it.
For the uninitiated, gelato is not simply “Italian Ice Cream”. It is a frozen treat which shares common ingredients with ice cream, but which typically has a much lower percentage of butterfat and a higher percentage of sugar than American ice cream. It is denser, smoother, and often more flavorful than it’s more familiar counterpart.
Gorgeous Gelato has become well known for their whole-food approach to treat making, and they feature traditional flavors such as zabaione and stracciatella along with fruit based concoctions such as wild berry and mango. The Gelato Fiasco, while sharing a focus on local, natural ingredients with their cross-street rival, takes a more whimsical approach to flavor development. Their Cake Batter Gelato (yep, tastes just like frozen cake batter) is semi-legendary, and on my first visit to their Portland store (which took place on Super Bowl Sunday) they had on offer some football-themed flavors including ‘Tom Brandy’, and a slightly-terrifying Buffalo hot-wings flavor that no one seemed brave enough to try. They also have more traditional flavors like their house chocolate, and “Innocence” (a very traditional fresh cream flavor) along with an assortment of mainly fruit-inspired Sorbettos. All flavors sold in Portland are made fresh in the Portland store, and they post a daily menu of flavors on their website. (You can even sign up to get an email when your favorite flavor is available.)
Like their flagship Brunswick location, the new Portland store features a warm, inviting decor that highlights some gelato-themed classic artwork, free wi-fi, and a selection of board games at the back. A large sign just inside the front door promotes the ‘Red Spoon Society‘ (a points based frequent buyers club), and during winter months there is a “Frozen Code” that gives gives store-wide discounts at any time when the temperature is below 32 degrees. The scooping staff is upbeat, and insanely knowledgeable about the flavors — any and all of which you are encouraged to try before making your final selection.
I suspect you’re expecting me to come down on one side or the other – to pick a shop as the top gelato shop in the city. I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to encourage you to try them both and see which one you like the best. Like chocolate and vanilla, they are very different shops but each delicious in their own way. Fore Street is one of the most visible locations in the city, with heavy foot traffic, and I’m confident that both shops will do well. As a long-time fan of their Brunswick location, I’m tickled that The Gelato Fiasco is able to open a second shop in Portland, simply because I know that means another Maine-based business is doing well.
The Gelato Fiasco’s new Portland location is at 425 Fore St in Portland, “behind the fence” on the ground level of the Fore Street Parking garage, right next to the new Five Guys Burgers. Learn more about them at their website (bonus points if you can find the link on the website that leads to being Rick-Rolled), and you can Like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.
Distance from the Maine State Pier: four-tenths of a mile (about a seven minute walk).
Still can’t find them? Here’s a map!