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Where is the one place in Israel where you are just as likely to run into an IDF officer, as you are nostalgic old men, eager young adults, pushy cab drivers, and of course, parents and children? Leggenda—a gelato chain that brings the taste of Italy to the Holy Land. Using only fresh ingredients, Leggenda uses Italian techniques to create delicious gelato flavors made for an Israeli palate.
Twelve years ago, Ori Finkelstein and Dudu Mina took it upon themselves to create a unique combination of Italian style gelateria with Israeli and experimental flavors. (Try and stop by when they are making their outrageous garlic or tomato-basil gelato.) The pair, armed with culinary training, traveled to Italy to learn everything they could about authentic gelato, and opened Leggenda as an outlet for their creativity.
Today there are twelve Leggenda gelaterias across Israel. The most recent branch opened on December 2011 on the bustling Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv- an excellent location as it caters to every type of client at all hours of the day. On any given afternoon, you can find children and parents debating over how big of a scoop to get. At night, (or early mornings depending on how you look at it) Leggenda is crowded with bar hoppers who are ready to end their evening with a final shot of rum… rum raisin that is.
So what makes Leggenda the accurately self-proclaimed “legend” that is has become? It could be the incredibly unique atmosphere that screams fun. The tables and chairs are designed not only to maximize comfort, but also to represent the gelateria completely. Look closely and you’ll notice the tables are designed to mimic the “Leggenda” logo.
But the real stars are the flavors of course. There are always at least 44 flavors available at any time, with over 80 recipes revolving from day to day. In addition to creamy gelato and fruity sorbet, Leggenda also has crepes, frozen yogurt, waffles, and homemade sauces. Ready to go but not sure where to begin?
Try the orange-carrot sorbet. The carrot infuses what would normally taste like a frozen cup of orange juice with a fresh flavor, making it a crisp and refreshing treat on a hot summer’s day. Although it’s a sorbet, the carrot-orange consistency is smooth and dense, making this treat a long-lasting delight. Try this flavor with a dash of whipped cream or an extra scoop of vanilla gelato to get that familiar creamsicle taste that your mouth craves after the first bite.
If fruit and vegetables aren’t your cup of gelato, ask for a scoop of creamy! Halva is a traditional Middle Eastern treat that you will find in almost every Israeli home. It is prepared with ground sesame seeds and sugar, making it a simple and familiar treat for all ages. Years ago, Israelis got creative and began infusing their halva with unique flavors like pistachio, chocolate, and even coffee flavored. Today, Leggenda took halva to the next level and turned it into a cold and creamy gelato that is now one of the most popular and unique flavors.
Leggenda even found a way to improve cheesecake! With base ingredients straight from Israel, you can almost taste the sweet milk of the north in every bite. What was once a heavy dessert is now a refreshing summer treat, topped with fresh berries straight from Israel’s backyard. This flavor is a staple on Leggenda’s ever-rotating menu.
One might wonder where Leggenda gets their recipes from. Most are from Dudu’s creative mind, some are Italian inspired, but sometimes a customer will suggest a new taste. As a testament to Leggenda’s customer appreciation, the owners decided to humor one of their fans who always recommended a marzipan flavor. Because it was such an instant success, this flavor is now a favorite among customers and servers alike. Marzipan, another traditional Middle Eastern treat, is an almost flavored paste that is normally formed into creative shapes and served as a holiday dessert. Lucky for Tel Avivians, this treat is available all year round, and so close to home!
But the real treat at Leggenda is the hazelnut-chocolate gelato. We’ve all thought of doing this, and some of us have even tried it… eating a whole jar of Nutella. Is there a way to accomplish this feat, guilt free? Why yes, there is- Leggenda’s hazelnut-chocolate gelato. The bin is often empty, but worry not, there is always a fresh replacement just behind the counter. This succulent flavor is nothing short of luxurious. Every bite of fresh cacao, ground hazelnut, and sweet cream is powerfully reminiscent of our favorite dessert spread. This flavor invigorates your taste buds as it cools your mouth upon contact and continues to please your senses through the very last bite.
Leggenda has only been open since December 2011, and already it has become a favorite among natives and tourists alike. The outdoor seating make this a perfect place to people watch while you enjoy a cold treat. On really hot summer days, take a table inside the air conditioned gelateria and enjoy your dessert without baking in the summer sun. In Tel Aviv, the sun seems to get stronger every day, especially in the summer time. Don’t fuss over the heat, though. Think of it as one more reason to come to Leggenda.
Written by Jessica Hochstadt