Gelateria Naia in the Castro; All Natural Gelato
Often seen as the ignored sibling of the frozen dessert family, Gelato doesn’t seem to get as much love as ice cream and frozen yogurt. Perhaps because most people haven’t been to Italy, where there are more gelato stands than we have McDonald’s and Starbucks. Or maybe it’s because many dont know exactly what the difference is between the three. At the most basic level you can think of ice cream as having more fat from milk as well as more air, frozen yogurt contains more artificial sweeteners and is made from cultured milk that includes live bacteria, and gelato is traditionally made with more real fruit and is less dense because it has less air in it than ice cream.
Though one would naturally head to North Beach to find gelato, Gelateria Naia in the Castro has cemented itself as the go-to destination for locals craving the bold and flavorful dessert (though I recommend having it any time of day).
Naia was founded by three friends who traveled the globe eating gelato everywhere they went, and they wanted to bring all the flavors and high quality they enjoyed back to the Bay Area. Using only high quality, seasonal ingredients (how San Francisco of them!) they produce small batches of gelato to ensure that customers enjoy the freshest gelato available. The majority of their flavors are made from all natural, locally grown ingredients. For their more bold and international flavors, they import ingredients from all over the world, including green tea from Japan and vanilla beans from Madagascar.
For me, aside from using natural ingredients, a gelateria ranks higher based on the availability of unique flavors. Anyone can create the usual fruit flavors, but I love trying all the off-the-wall flavors that you won’t find everywhere else. At Naia, they specialize in creating fun flavors like Guinness (beer + gelato FTW), rose, ginger, and Masala Chai. They also have a bevy of fresh fruit offerings that rotate seasonally, like strawberry, mango, kiwi, coconut, grapefruit, papaya, apple, and pear, among many others.
On my most recent trip, I got to enjoy a handful of flavors. The strawberry and mango were very sweet, and tasted like you were eating a frozen puree of the fruit, which is exactly what I expected. I also got to try the Guinness flavor, which actually tasted like Guinness beer! The flavor wasn’t too forward, it had a nice subtely to it, just like the real stuff. My personal favorite flavor, though, was the Masala Chai. A big fan of chai myself, it was packed with so much flavor, which was savory and very spicy. I’ve had real chai that didn’t have this much flavor!
A cute shop in the heart of the Castro, it makes a perfect after dinner dessert stop or just drop in and enjoy some on a stroll through the neighborhood on a nice day, which is exactly what we did.
Thanks for the photos, Isip!
451 Castro St.
San Francisco, CA 94114
Filed under: Castro, Restaurants, Reviews | 4 Comments
Tags: all natural, Castro, dessert, frozen yogurt, gelato, ice cream, italian, Italy, locally grown, north beach, sobretto