Autumn may be around the corner, but the days of Indian summer are not yet over, so there’s still plenty of reason to enjoy a season-ending ice cream in the warm afternoons. The best ice cream shops in town still await their customers with a full counter, thus we thought we’d continue our last episode by introducing you to three additional places of wonder, this time even leaving downtown!
1162 Budapest, Csömöri Road 209.
2651 Rétság, Nagyparkoló Square 1.
Who says delicious ice cream is a privilege only for downtown folks? The Hungarian ice cream scene has been greatly evolving in recent years, and one of the most rewarding aspects of this is that you can now find top-quality ice cream on the outskirts of the city, just as well as in the countryside. Fazekas Confectionery has long been a family-run business, popular with people of the suburbs, but a few years ago it has turned into a destination for the gastro pilgrims. The reason is simple, one of the heirs, Ádám, has repeatedly beaten the world—in 2021 he won first place at the Gelato Festival World Masters international competition, but he has also participated in several others.
When it was Adam’s turn in their bakery-confectionery—despite the shop’s decade-long history—he decided to put a twist on things and become a gelato master. Not satisfied with the quality of training in Hungary, however, he headed for Italy and soaked up the knowledge he could find there. He then opened an ice cream shop in Kisnémedi, then in Pest, and finally in Rétság, where he has been making ice cream ever since.
As you enter the shop, the space is almost entirely consumed by the two symmetrical countertops, each of them packed with exciting combinations. The monodesserts are prominently displayed, while the ice creams are hidden away in classic sunken coolers. The reason is to keep the temperature fixed and protect the iced dessert—gone are the days when the higher you stacked it, the classier the ice cream was. The names give plenty of clues, but there are willing helpers ready to give you a sample of anything you desire. It’s worth trying all because in recent years nearly 100 flavors have been created. There are milk/cream, and dairy-free versions, but the key thing is that everything is made from all-natural ingredients, so their flavor is very pure. If they can’t find a good ingredient for something, they won’t offer it, but you can trust their creativity to come up with a new idea to make up for it. There’s room for both Pickled Cucumber and Frutta di Pistacchio, a wonderfully creamy, slightly salty, yet pleasantly sweet ice cream fantasy with pistachio, raspberry, and tonka beans; but you can also choose from high cocoa content dark chocolate or mango. The flavors are also echoed in the cakes, with the award-winning pistachio-raspberry, for example, available in both forms, but it’s definitely worth studying the entire selection.
Adam is currently ranked second in the Gelato Festival World Ranking, but perhaps just as important to him is the growing spotlight on the future of his trade. His aim is to ensure that those who come after him recognize the importance of the work, knowledge, and creativity it takes to make the perfect gelato. No compromises, only pure flavors, 12 months of the year—for that reason alone, Fazekas Confectionery is worth a detour.
1092 Budapest Ráday Street 24.
Looking back, we can see that the gastronomic revolution started in 2013, and some immediately picked up the momentum, even if slowly and quietly. MAMO gelato’s Italian owners had already been in the ice cream ingredients business, but they thought it was time to move up a level. Coming from the home of gelato, they had the knowledge and technology, plus the right ingredients (such as oilseeds) for a great result. But it took a few years to truly get there and to find the audience that would visit them regularly from all over town, even in the middle of a pandemic.
Walking along Ráday Street in 2018-2019, people would often stop under the shade of the bright lime-colored umbrellas. This is where MAMO gelato has found its home, in this tourist-filled street of the IXth district of Budapest, even so slightly overcrowded with culinary delights. Although the area is swarming with restaurants, there was a shortage of good ice cream, so their arrival was well received, even in the midst of the Covid and lockdown periods. To the owners’ surprise, however, although many venues closed down and the street was sometimes almost ringing with emptiness, the Hungarian clientele continued to grow. Many people took MAMO ice cream to their hearts and came asking for their favorite pistachios and mangoes to go, to have at least a little joy when suddenly everything seemed so unbearably rough. People came from miles away, like Csepel, Buda, and all the surrounding areas to browse the selection of an average of 16 flavors.
For it has become important for people to choose quality food, made with good ingredients, and prepared with great care. Plus here, everyone could find their favorite, from seasonal fruit to the many different flavors of chocolate and even their unique creations. There were and are always dairy-free sorbets, and sugar-free variants, from the essentials highlighting a single ingredient to the complex varieties. While Italians are more conservative when it comes to ice cream and believe in keeping it simple, confectioners like to experiment. There is always something that inspires them, which is how the mango-pineapple-lime-passion fruit, the chocolate-pecan, or the pavlova cake ice cream were invented, or even the MAMO-creme, an eggnog vanilla ice cream. They’re even open in winter, albeit with a more limited selection, with the focus placed on the cakes, which are made with the same care.
And since last year, the public of the Buda-side can rejoice, as they can also enjoy MAMO’s ice cream at Etele Plaza. While one tends to go for their favorite, it’s worth experimenting with the novelties—ask for a sample or advice, and as suggested, be careful not to force flavors that don’t match into the same cone or cup, lest it spoils the experience.
1053 Budapest Kossuth Lajos Street 4.
If someone asked me what my sweetest dream was, I would most likely say a hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream. If I could even go wild, I’d humbly put that ice cream in a chimney cake. Well, I might have only dreamed about it, but some people have made it happen: Gelateria Pichler is just around the corner from Ferenciek Square in downtown Budapest, offering vanilla-scented pastries and smooth ice creams, to be savored separately or together.
The story starts not so long ago, but it’s all the more colorful—Anet Pichler and her husband, the Italian Donato Callipo, founded the business in 2019. Both are career changers, Anet previously worked in the retail and cosmetics sector for foreign brands, while Donato was an economist with an interest in the construction industry. They wanted their lives to take a new turn, so like many others, they chose gastronomy. When they saw the vacant shop on the corner of Kossuth Lajos Street in Budapest, it got them thinking. At first, they wanted a hip “Belgian fries shop“, but they couldn’t get permission from the district to install the fryer for lack of a kitchen.
The duo mulled it over and decided that there weren’t many good ice cream joints in the area, so they went for it. However, they didn’t set out to become gelato masters themselves but were on the lookout for the best, and thanks to a chance meeting in Székesfehérvár, they met Balázs Damniczki. His name may be familiar to those with a sweet tooth: in 2014 he won the Ország tortája (Cake of the Hungarian Nation—the Transl.) competition with his “Somló Revolution,“ but his work has also won the “Ice Cream of the Country“ award several times. Years ago, he had his own shop in Budapest, not far from Arany János Street—I remember the sheer joy of licking raspberries-and-bell-pepper ice cream, and the cucumber sorbet, which at the time were still a stunning novelty.
Then the place closed down, Balázs disappeared from the Budapest scene, and you could only taste his products at retailers like the Ideál Desszert in Zugló district of Budapest. This experience was brought back to us by Pichler, which tourists and then the locals too fell in love with instantaneously, even though they opened shop during the pandemic. Initially, they started with 24 flavors, including free-from versions, but with the arrival of autumn and the end of the ice cream season, they had to reinvent themselves once again. Since this area (when traveling is possible, of course) is mainly visited by tourists, Anet and her husband thought it would be worth making something that didn’t require a big kitchen but would say a little more about Hungary—and so they arrived at the chimney cake, aka kürtőskalács. They learned to make it, bought the baking wood, and got to work with a small team.
The shop is already beautiful, spacious, bright, and flooded with warm colors, something that struck me on the grey autumn day when I discovered it. Top it all off with the unrivaled smell of baking chimneys and it’s almost guaranteed success. And the pastry is truly delightful, crispy, not too sweet, and always fresh, as they make it from morning till night. Of course, they haven’t forgotten about the ice cream, so to add to the experience, they also use the chimney as a cone, so that you can add the 9 different flavors of iced treats in it if you like. They also have plenty to offer for colder days, with a fantastic cooked vanilla custard, Nutella, or Italian pistachio cream, and in winter, hot chocolate and hot stewed fruit. The owners see their field as a creative playground where they can create ever newer products—the aim is to become a sweet spot in the city center that one day may even be called a “must visit.“
Photos: Krisztina Szalay