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The lovely family plus the fun-filled sister’s family went to the Missouri Botanical Garden today.  It was a warm sunny day, and we were able to fully appreciate the Japanese Cherry Blossoms “snowing” on the kiddos, a plethora of daffodils, and an abundance of tulips.  MoBot is fantastic at any time of year, but during the spring, you really wish you could visit it every day.

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We left at closing time, and upon the lovely wife’s recommendation, we headed over to South Grand and Gelateria Del Leone.  She had recently met clients and taken their picture there, and thought I’d love it.

The lovely wife knows me so well.

First, a few words on gelato.  I first had gelato as a 19 year old during a visit to Rome back in 1997.  I was young and on a very limited budget.  I’m pretty sure I hadn’t had anything to eat that day and I ordered a gelato from a back-street gelateria.  I’m not sure if I knew the taste of alcohol back then the way I do today, but let me tell you, there was a hefty dose of rum in my chocolate gelato I ordered that day.  Happily buzzed, I savored the creamy, rich texture of that Italian treat while being exposed to art, history, Italian Communist Farmer’s Political marches, and home-cooked Italian food made by an Indian-Italian, on what was possibly one of the most bizarre days of my life.  After that, gelato sort of disappeared from my life for quite some time.

Today however, gelato is fighting for its spot in our frozen dairy loving hearts.*  I’ve seen gelato popping up in local supermarkets and in other locations around town.

*I think there will come a point where we as the human race will be confined to our Hoverounds, amiably joysticking our way from Dairy Queen, to Culver’s Frozen Custard, to Fro Yo, to a local Gelateria.  Seriously, our love of frozen dairy treats knows no limits.

Of the frozen dairy treats however, gelato is the healthiest choice (relatively speaking, of course).  Gelato generally has less cream and more milk in the recipe.  How is it so rich, dense, and creamy then you ask?  Well, gelato is churned at a very slow speed, and very little air gets whipped into the mixture. Therefore you get the dense creamy texture that gelato is known for.

Anyway, back to Gelateria Del Leone.  We actually went there for dinner, and the gelato was truly an added bonus on an excellent meal.  I ordered the Italiano Panini while the kiddos got the Pesto Grilled Cheese sandwich.  There was no kids meal options available, so if you’re going there with the kiddos be prepared to spend a little more than usual, but the sandwiches were served with Billy Goat Chips (which are an AWESOME St. Louis product) and a drink.  The lovely wife ordered a Caprese salad and bruschetta for everyone to share.  The bruschetta was fantastic, with a fresh mix of tomatoes, shallots, and basil on crispy toasted bread.  It was definitely lighter and brighter than most bruschetta I’ve had.

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The sandwiches came after a short wait, and were fantastic.  The Italian came with prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, shallots, provolone, pesto mayo.  First off, the focaccia bread is house made and was a perfect blend of crunchy and soft.  The sandwich had a reasonable amount of meat and cheese, not neither overwhelming the flavor of the other.  I appreciated how reasonable the portion size actually was.  Sometimes Italian sandwiches tend to be meat heavy, leading to a cured meat coma…not so here.  It was satisfying yet not overwhelming in size.

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The kids’ sandwiches were a real highlight however.  First off, I do hate lying to my son, but sometimes you need to make compromises to get them to eat food.

The delightful son is particular about his cheese.  Basically it must be yellow, or yellowish.  You can get Muenster cheese by him, but that’s as far as he’ll go on the whiteness scale.  Except pizza.  He’ll eat pizza.

Furthermore, he’s not wild about pesto…but he has loved the chimichurri sauce I’ve made recently for steak dishes.  Chimichurri is a vivid green.

He was a bit shocked when his grilled cheese sandwich came with white cheese with green topping.  So I proceeded to tell him it was pizza cheese with chimichurri sauce on top.  Although not convinced, he gave it a go and ate half his sandwich, knowing that he needed to save room for gelato.  That was okay by me, as it allowed me to eat the other half of his sandwich (I saved half of my Italian for today’s lunch).  The cheese, pesto, and focaccia was a heavenly combination.  Once again, each ingredient was balanced, and it was one of the finest grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve sampled.

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The lovely wife’s Caprese salad looked delightful and although not in season, the tomatoes looked fresh and tempting.

Finally we come to the gelato.  While all the selections looked incredibly tempting, I sampled some Mayan chocolate (infused with cayenne pepper), but settled on the Dulce de Leche and Chocolate and Salted Caramel.  And there we sat, savoring a spring day with our tiny gelato shovels (I totally love gelato spoons, it’s like you’re an enormous construction worker), scooping out bite size morsels of frozen dairy goodness on a perfect spring day.

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There were other touches about Gelateria Del Leone I enjoyed as well.  Real glass cups for water, and to go boxes made from recycled paper.  I liked the vibe of quality and sustainability.  The staff were all super friendly, and although we didn’t partake they have a wide selection of tea and coffee.

All in all, Gelateria Del Leone provided our family with a memorable meal to cap the perfect St. Louis spring day.  We all agreed that we would come back the next time we visited the Botanical Gardens.  If you find yourself near South Grand, treat yourself to a fine sandwich and tasty dairy treat.

Gelateria Del Leone on Urbanspoon

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