Scream for Ice Cream: SoCo’s best gelato, frozen yogurt and ice cream

BiteClub finds where to get the best frozen yogurt, ice cream and gelato in Sonoma County and Napa

gelato.jpgPrepare your pucker and put your licker on alert, because it’s ice cream season in Wine Country. Whether you prefer your scoops in a cup, cone or piled high in a sundae, we’ve rounded up the tastiest frozen treats around.

Best Bets

Bovolo/Zazu: “If you can’t make good vanilla, you can’t make good gelato,” says John Stewart, part of the duo behind Zazu and Bovolo Restaurants. With a flair for Italian, John and wife, Duskie Estes, are committed to doing gelato authentically. Starting with Clover milk, they don’t use a pre-made base like many others, but create the dense flavors with just cream, sugar, seasonal fruits, chocolate or other flavorings (including local wines like pinot noir). There are between 10 and 12 varieties at their Healdsburg cafe, changing up as they experiment with different ingredients. Most recently, a flavor gone wrong (Thai coconut milk) became a candy-lover’s delight: Almond Joy studded with coconut and almonds. What is gelato? This soft, creamy Italian version of ice cream is actually made with less butterfat than normal American ice cream, but less air — giving it a richer quality. Bovolo, 106 Matheson St, Healdsburg, (707) 431-2962.

Del Secco: With 40 flavors on the menu, Del Secco’s gelateria’s
has the scoop on Sonoma County’s sweet tooth. The Rohnert Park shop
features exotic sorbet and gelato (kind of like ice cream, but
creamier) flavors including blood orange, cantaloupe, gingerbread,
50-50v(think Creamsicle) and snowflake–a mixture of white chocolate
and coconut. The gelato’s not made onsite, but by the uber-popular,
flavor-savvy Gelateria Naia folks from the East Bay. Hungry yet? Grab a
spoon. 6285 Commerce Blvd., Suite 308, Rohnert Park, 585.1100, open

eat.jpgScreaming Mimi’s: Both social hub and bike-path destination (for
those heading from Santa Rosa along the Prince Memorial Greenway), this
homegrown scoopery dishes up ridiculously rich and creamy treats that
rotate through owner Maraline Olson’s 300 recipes. And though Mexican
chocolate or plain old vanilla may float some boats, the occasional
appearance of olive oil ice cream is a special treat. Wrinkling your
nose? The grassy, green flavor of olive oil is a perfect foil for the
sometimes cloying sweetness of ice cream. 6902 Sebastopol Avenue,
Sebastopol,  (707) 823-5902.  Healdsburg’s Snowbunny (312
Center St Healdsburg, (707) 431-7669) is also a fan of the olio
d’oliva, serving up a Fleur de Sel soft serve with a pinch of salt and
a drizzle of local green gold. They also, of course, have the usual
suspects, including fruit and candy toppings for their heavenly frozen

Yogurt Farms: Despite a rather non-descript exterior, this
Mendocino Avenue soft-serve emporium is cute as a cupcake inside, with
a resident plastic cow and more flavors than you can shake a spoon at.
Purists laud the tart, yogurty quality of this local frozen treat
purveyor. Plus, the nicest yogurt slingers in town. 1224 Mendocino
Ave., Santa Rosa, (707) 576-0737

Honeymoon Frozen Yogurt: Self-serve fro-yo with an eye toward
alternative diets, including a vegan mix. Priced per ounce, so fill
your cup with a bit of restraint unless you’re breaking the bank. 7108
Bodega Ave., Sebastopol, (707) 829-9866.

Three Twins Ice Cream: Organic ice cream with serious
conscience. Neal Gottlieb, his twin brother and his wife focus on
sustainable, environmentally thoughtful treats — that also happen to
taste pretty darn good. Oxbow Public Market, Napa.

Laloo’s Goat Milk Ice Cream: Laura Howard’s ultra-gourmet goat
milk ice creams and frozen yogurts have become the darling of the
dessert set after only two years of business. Studded with brownies,
local figs or whatever tickle her fancy, LaLoo’s frozen goat’s milk
also pack a healthy punch of protein and probiotics. Best bets: Low-fat
Rumplemint mint-chocolate chip and Cajeta De Leche frozen yogurt with
Mexican caramel and toffee bits. (Available at Whole Foods, Oliver’s
and Pacific Market).

Worth a lick…

Powell’s Sweet Shoppe: The local sweet emporiums pump up the sugar
quotient with gelato from the Bay Area’s Gelato Classico. Monthly
flavor special recently included a zingy limoncello poppyseed. 322
Center St. Healdsburg; 720 McClelland Dr. Windsor; 151 Petaluma Blvd.
So. # 113, Petaluma.

Golden Spoon: This heatwave hot spot dishes nearly a dozen frozen
yogurt flavors at any one time, from peanut butter cup to monthly
featured flavors including peach, coconut, cookies and cream and Heath
Bar. Give a royal wave with your glittering spoon. 90 Raleys Towne
Centre, Rohnert Park; 1791 Marlow Rd., Santa Rosa; 8828 Lakewood Dr.,

Brownies from Rohnert Park’s Killer Baking Company were my top reason
to visit Santa Rosa’s Wednesday night market through the long hot
summer, but doubly so since Chef Michael recently released his new
maple, brownie bit and pecan ice cream. Also available at Oliver’s

Lala’s Creamery: Family run ice cream parlor in Petaluma offers up
homemade ice creams using Straus milk. 134 Petaluma Blvd. North,
Petaluma, 707 763-5252.


33 thoughts on “Scream for Ice Cream: SoCo’s best gelato, frozen yogurt and ice cream

  1. I would like to offer an apology to you regarding your experience at Screaming’ Mimi’s. I cannot remember anytime recently that I may have been ‘not very nice’ to my employees and am sorry if my interaction with you was perceived as rude. I truly value both my customers and employees. I do hope you will continue to enjoy our ice cream.

  2. My first job was as Swenson’s too!
    Am I the only one impressed with Spring Hill’s ice cream? On Western in Petaluma, at the creamery, the cheese maker also makes ice cream. I understand it is only sold there and to some luck folks at the SF ferry building farmers market. She has about 8 flavors at a time; open until 5pm. Plus you can buy their great cheese and butter while you are there – vanilla quark, yum!

  3. Lala’s creamery makes all their ice cream on the premises of 134 Petaluma Blvd. North. They make their ice cream with Straus Family Organic Ice cream Blend 14% milkfat. Perhaps maybe you should inquire with the owners, before sharing information that you obviously know very little. Perhaps they use whole milk (Kirkland milk from Costco) to make, gee, I don’t know, a milkshake, a latte’, or tea with milk? “dee tee dee” . A Petaluman resident.

  4. I love the ice cream at screamin mimi’s But the occasional time the owner has been there She is rude and not real nice to her employees. Kind of turns me off of the ice cream fun.
    And yes there was nothing better than swensen’s.

  5. LA VERA! 4th Street Santa Rosa. Their gelato is the best in town. Ah, a slice of their pizza in one hand and a gelato in the other… reason enough to tolerate the city’s new parking meters.

  6. Hi Vince,
    That would be Flavors! The ice cream is flavorful (try the lemon and cheesecake blend) and the staff is friendly and courteous. Try their world-famous Jarrod’s Chocolate Milkshake! Nothing so rich and satisfying as an ice cold chocolate shake on the River.

  7. Another really good self-serve fro yo place is Yogurt Time, on Mark West Springs Road near the LBC, next to Bad Ass Coffee. According to the Yogurt Time, there’s also a Yogurt Time in Healdsburg.
    Not only is the selection yummy, but their toppings are fresh and not stale as I have experienced at Golden Spoon. Also, I have a lot of respect for Yogurt Time for NOT using styrofoam cups. Styrofoam stays in the landfills forever. It does not biodegrade and there is no reason to use it when sturdy paper cups are just fine.
    Yay, Yogurt Time!
    I have also noticed a new fro yo flavor emerge called “Tartalicious”. Think of those Sweet Tart candies in fro yo form…it can really hit the spot.

  8. I remember Farrell’s! There was one in the San Fernando Valley when I was a kid. They had one dish they called the Pig Trough that had a banana, 6 scoops of ice cream, 3 different toppings, Whipped Cream and a cherry. If you finished it (by yourself!) you got a ribbon that said “I made a pig of myself at Farrell’s!). Ah the old days.
    Hey – I haven’t heard anyone mention Brain Freeze in Rohnert Park near the library. 8 different kinds of Soft Serve and a topping bar. You help yourself to whatever you want and then pay by the ounce. If you can guess how much it weighs it’s free. I like this place because I can serve myself exactly how much I want which is usually less than someone else would serve me. And two of us can go for less than $5. I can handle that even if it is not home made ice cream.

  9. Yogurt Farms (AKA “Christian Yogurt”) is the best frozen yogurt EVER. Golden Spoon’s sludge tastes like frozen dog crap next to it.

  10. Don’t forget Ciao Bella at Video Droid. Nothing fancy, not expensive but AWESOME italian gelato! Flavors rotate all the time!

  11. Yeah Swensen’s was great. Bubble gum ice cream! Nom nom nom! They had them at least as far as San Diego, because I used to go to one there as a kid (in Escondido). There was also another 1920’s-style chain called Farrell’s that was amazing. They had this huge party bucket of ice cream called The Zoo and, when someone ordered it, they would ring a siren and two people would run around the store with the ice cream on a dais on their shoulders. Looks like there’s only a couple locations left according to their website.
    There is also a great ice cream place across River Road from Safeway in Guerneville but I can’t remember the name. It is a Coldstone style place where they mix fresh ice cream with ingredients and it’s really, really good.

  12. Del Secco in Rohnert Park is SUCH a wonderful place. Great people, great gelato. I go there as often as I can and wish I could go MORE!
    And Adam…Swensen’s was a chain. As a growing up kid, I lived two blocks from the original store at Union and Hyde Sts. in San Francisco. At the time another gourmet attraction was right across the intersection: Marcel et Henri Charcuterie, of pate fame, now moved to South San Francisco.

  13. Old Uncle Gaylord’s was the best! I used to go to the one in Burlingame everyday after swim team practice and re-fuel. Took my High School Home Economics class on a field trip there to make our own Ice Cream. Thanks for the memories, Uncle.
    Here’s wishing for a family reunion, where’s the Old Uncle when you need him?
    Screaming Mimi’s rocks though, love it.

  14. Try Fentons for a real ice cream parlour. There is the original one in Oakland/Piedmont and a new one in Vacaville by the Nut Tree

  15. Lala’s in Petaluma has the old-time ice cream parlor feel. Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t impressed with their ice cream. It was very “airy” if that makes sense, so not what I would expect from a full-fat ice cream product.

  16. I need to make a correction to my last post. Gunther’s is not next to I-80 itself, but instead is next to Hwy 99 near the spot where 99 joins 80.

  17. This is specifically a reply to the posts by Rick D. and Adam.
    Adam, thanks for reminding me of Gunther’s as I had let that place slip my mind. I’ve rarely been in that part of Sacramento and got used to going to Vic’s. I remember it was close to McGeorge School of Law, though.
    Rick D: Places like Swenson’s, i.e., true, old-fashioned ice cream parlours, seem to be almost non-existent in this part of the world these days. The best place to go for the real thing is Sacramento. Whatever else anyone says about that city, they can;t fault it for lacking good ice cream. It has several good, local, old-fashioned ice cream places that have been around since the 40s. Gunther’s, which Adama mentioned above, opened about 1940 and is on Franklin Ave along I-80. Vic’s, opened in 1947, is on Riverside, I think at 8th Ave. Both are south of downtown and Business 80/Capital City Freeway.

  18. @PTownFan
    That place was Uncle Gaylords. Grew up less then a block away, my brother and I used to help out with odd jobs in exchange for milkshakes. Mint chip shakes were the best, and remember the homemade cookies?

  19. I love going to Del Secco. It has become a favorite place to stop late in the evening. I love how they are open late and always let you try a taste. They make it hard to leave without buying some vintage candy that you can’t find anywhere else.
    BTW was Swensen’s a chain? I remember one in Napa growing up.
    Someone mentioned Sacramento, ever try Gunther’s on Freeport? I used to walk there from my Mom’s house on the weekends. You could see them make the ice cream through the glass wall near the order counter. I wish Santa Rosa had something like that!

  20. Another vote for Swenson’s. When I lived in Marin we would go to the one in Mill Valley. Then up here on 3rd street. They were the best and had the best Milkshakes I have ever had! I still long for that place. If anyone knows of something like Swenson’s these days, let us know. Gelato is ok once in a great while, but NOTHING beats a good old fashion Chocolate Malt.

  21. I just had the Butter Pecan at Lala’s on Saturday. It was my first visit to the shop. That Butter Pecan was heavenly. Being lactose intolerant, I avoid ice cream, but this butter pecan was worth it. Yum!
    Also, thank you for posting information Laloo’s Goat’s Milk products. I am always on the lookout for lactose-free products. Soy based ice cream just ain’t the same!

  22. “Quality control”… SOMEone has to do it! Thanks for putting yourself in harms way for all of us ice cream lovers 🙂
    Anyone remember the ice cream place on Petaluma Blvd South that closed about 20 years ago? Uncle something? We loved arriving just as he was taking the beater out of another batch of handmade ice cream. Yum!

  23. Yes, I also loved Swenson’s. We’d go there, primarily to the one in downtown Santa Rosa on 3rd St (the spot with GG’s), very frequently and I can still remember the counter with marble and brass and the smell of ice cream that permeated the place, as well as the malts I’d always get. We would also sometimes go to the one on Mendocino near the JC or the one in downtown Petaluma. The downtown Santa Rosa one was the best, though and it was there for so long. Ever since it left, not only have we had nothing like it here, but that spot hasn’t been able to hold a resutrant for more than a few years.

  24. Swenson’s was actually my very first job. I loved the part where you had to try all the flavors so you could explain to customers what they tasted like. Hmmm. I haven’t changed much.

  25. This all sounds good and I definitely enjoy some of these places, especially Screaming Mimi’s, but I still wish we had a real, old-fashioned ice-crsm/soda place somehwere in the vicinity, along tyhe lines of Vic’s in Sacramento.
    Also, althoyugh it’s farther afield, I would mention Cowlick’s in Fort Bragg.
    I alsoalways find it interesting how something that is considered “normal” in one place somehow becomes “gourmet” somewhere else, like some ice-cream mentioned here. Gelato is an obvious one, being considered “gourmet” or ritzy here (although less so thatn, say 25 years ago), but another is supposedly “ultra-gourmet” goat-mil ice cream. In some places, like Turkey, goat-milk ice cream is the normal, daily ice-cream. In Turkey, one can get dondurma, Turkish-style ice cream made with goat milk, everywhere from the simplest street vendors to fancy ice-cream parlours to corner groceries and supermarkets. They have huge varieties of flavours , too, ranging from “plain” to, at parlours like Mado, pomegranate, mango, apple, sour cherry, banana, cheesecake, walnut, pistachio, melon, etc.

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