Gelato and Training Wheels

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I've been convinced for a while now that one reason for the popularity of daiquiris in New Orleans is that so many locals were practically weaned on sno-balls. Sweet, brightly colored and icy, they can be seen as something like low-octane training wheels for the sweet, brightly colored, icy and

alcohol-laden concoctions sold at suburban drive-thrus, French Quarter bars and festival vending booths across the region.

The generation of New Orleanians growing up now, however, might well come of age craving some kind of more urbane drink of choice. That's because gelato, the smooth, luscious and (at least locally) expensive Italian-style ice cream is fast becoming the most prominent icy treat in some parts of town. Someone on a diet has to stick to side streets when driving around Uptown to avoid the sugary temptation of one of these new gelato parlors, for instance, and the happy trend is beginning to spread to other neighborhoods as well.

The latest example I stumbled across was in Lakeview in a Harrison Avenue strip mall that has been renovated so nicely since the flood as to make a new gelato shop almost inevitable. This is NOLA Dolci (908 Harrison Ave., 373-5595), and it shares a roof with Nick's Snoballs. This sno-ball stand has long been a destination for Lakeview kids on bikes, but now when they arrive there is the choice of something like a nectar cream sno-ball from the take-out window or a cup of toasted almond gelato from the freezer case inside. If the gelato trend proves to be long-term, don't be surprised if you start hearing about a craze for toasted almond martinis at college bars when the next generation hits drinking age.

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