Eat This Now

An Underrated Gelato and Sandwich Shop in Central Phoenix

Strawberry and stracciatella gelato from In Perfetto.
Strawberry and stracciatella gelato from In Perfetto. Chris Malloy
We are deep in that stretch of summer that calls for ice, for sugar, for frozen desserts like paletas and ice cream. My personal favorite and sweet oblivious antidote to any kind of strong sun is gelato, gelato eaten at all times of day. We have plenty of great spots for that. One of my go-to gelato fixes these days is a newer spot on Central Avenue and McDowell Road, where Italian transplants are churning some solid flavors. Opened quietly late last year, empty at all hours, In Perfetto deserves more of a crowd.

The place is run by Luca Dagliano and the Ligurian family behind Forno 301, the steadfast neighborhood pizza joint humming right next door. They jumped at the chance to fill the vacant space when approached by MUSE, the apartment complex housing Forno (and In Perfetto).

click to enlarge The interior early in the lunch hour on a weekday. - CHRIS MALLOY
The interior early in the lunch hour on a weekday.
Chris Malloy
As you might guess based on the Forno menu, In Perfetto's gelato flavors hew closely to Italian classics. The shop's gelato section, however, occupies just a fraction of its counter. Options beyond frozen scoops include, most notably, worthwhile sandwiches; Aperol and Campari spritzes and other cocktails; cheeses, breads, olive oils, and other grocery-style goods; and brunch.

One of the brunch options is three small courses and bottomless mimosas for $25.

Those three courses might include a frittata, avocado toast, and veggie lasagna. Pasta sheets for lasagna and cannelloni (a tubular baked pasta) are rolled at Forno next door. There is palpably something of an unusual Italian slant to this brunch, one that you won’t find overseas, and that gives it intrigue.

Ah but weekend mornings, too, are for crisp, keen, ice-cold gelato.

Just what fills In Perfetto’s frosted tins rotates. Both times I stopped in, the tangerine flavor, a favorite, was out. But melon, rising in creamy peaks that look too bankrupt of color for a vibrant fruit, was very good. It had all the intense fragrance of a cantaloupe with none of the meatiness. Strawberry, too, was alive with the spirit of the berry. The texture on this sorbetto was a touch clotted and icy and could have been smoother, but it was so fresh and life-giving in the heat that I didn’t care.

click to enlarge Gelato options like coffee, bacio, and amaretti are classically Italian. - CHRIS MALLOY
Gelato options like coffee, bacio, and amaretti are classically Italian.
Chris Malloy
A few of the staple Italian cream-based flavors pack the lighted tins. These include a serviceable pistachio and hazelnut, as well as a stracciatella with wholesome depth and mellow lactose-sweetness. (Stracciatella, not to be confused with the cheese of the same name, is a milk-based gelato with chocolate shavings.) My favorite cream-based flavor here is probably amaretti, which channels a humble, almond-based Italian cookie.

I say “probably,” because my gelato preferences tend to change by my sun exposure, recent meals, recent dreams, minor thoughts, hunger, and the seasons.

If you don’t have a taste for gelato or want something to eat first, check out the sandwiches, bunned on fresh-baked ciabatta. Meatball sliders feature three single-meatball micro sandwiches draped with melted cheese, every component radiating richness and rusticity. Dunks in the flavorful side of marinara will be frequent, deep, and happy. A roast beef sandwich is stellar, folds of fall-apart meat crammed into hearty bread rounds, tomato and a side salad splicing in varying boosts of acid.

click to enlarge Roast beef sandwich with thick rounds of fresh-baked bread. - CHRIS MALLOY
Roast beef sandwich with thick rounds of fresh-baked bread.
Chris Malloy
Jazz either with chile-infused olive oil — or maybe even white balsamic — from an intense condiment tray that also includes balsamic cream.

On the way out, you’ll find some head-turning selections, like individually plastic-wrapped chocolate chip cookies.

And on a sunny day, nothing will turn your head like those iced rainbows of gelato, just chilling there in the case. Though it’s never a bad time for gelato, there's never a better time than now — especially when now happens to be a Sonoran summer, when the sun adds seasoning and you have to race it as your gelato melts like hell in the vaporizing heat.

In Perfetto.
1616 North Central Avenue; 480-787-5654.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
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Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy