The Brown Bonnet from Carvel Ice Cream was a staple of my childhood. It’s hard to believe it now, but our family would ride our bikes together to the Carvel on Long Beach Road in Oceanside, Long Island, where I grew up. We’d dismount, mosey inside and place our orders and my parents’ orders were always the same: a brown bonnet for my dad, a brown bonnet for my mom. What’s a brown bonnet? Essentially: soft-serve ice cream dipped in a chocolate glaze that instantly hardens. You can get it at the Mr. Softee truck in New York; there it’s just called a chocolate-dip. Wherever you get it, there’s something immensely satisfying about ice cream in a chocolate shell. And after years of brown bonnets and chocolate-dips at Mr. Softee, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the magical combo of chocolate on the outside and ice cream on the inside—that is, until I had the tartufo at Lupa.
I wasn’t sure about bringing my parents to Lupa for lunch. I knew my mom would enjoy it, but my dad likes his Italian food familiar and there wasn’t that much that was familiar to him after I ordered the antipasti. Here he is looking flummoxed:
What, they didn’t have escarole salad, beets in a green dressing and caramelized radicchio when he was growing up in Brooklyn?
Thankfully, the next course was familiar enough. Dad ordered the bucatini all’amatriciana (essentially, fat spaghetti in bacon-infused tomato sauce):
Mom had the linguine vongole (a white clam sauce, essentially):
And I had the dish that won Deb’s heart when she went there a few months ago–bavette cacio e pepe (read that as noodles with pepper and cheese):
To call it noodles with pepper and cheese, actually, sells it a bit short; it’s really mysterious and beautiful the way it all comes together. There’s the heat from the pepper, the sharpness of the cheese, and the perfectly al dente bite of the noodles. After one taste, my mom “mmm”-ed more loudly over mine than hers so I let her swap. I live here, after all, and they were just visiting.
But the star of the show, the undeniable moment of greatness was the tartufo. I insisted we order it (I’ve had it a few times before) so my parents could re-live their Brown Bonnet moments in an even more decadent way.
The gelato (which must be made with extra egg yolks, it’s so creamy and intense) is hazelnut; inside there are crushed biscotti and cherries. Then there’s the shell itself—it’s not a hard, crackly shell like you sometimes get when you order tartufo at a chintzy Italian joint. I’ve had tartufo straight from the freezer that you have to fight your way into. Not so this tartufo; here, the shell melts beneath your spoon—it’s almost like fudge it’s so rich and creamy. Here it is, one bite later:
It’s the kind of dessert that you have dreams about. I’m dreaming about it as I write this and I’m awake; it’s that incredible.
So for those of you who love ice cream and ice cream dipped in chocolate (I’m imaging that’s most of you?) get thee to Lupa and order the tartufo. Yes, all the other food is pretty great too (check out this lunch of antipasti I ate not too long ago) but the tartufo is the stuff of legend. Brown Bonnet, you’ve been soft-served.
170 Thompson Street
New York, NY 10012