Editor’s Note: Cow Bella Gelato is now closed.
Cow Bella Gelato opened a little over two weeks ago — just in time for fall. But the end of sweaty summer shouldn’t stop gelato fans from enjoying the ultra-fresh, seasonal goods churned daily at this new shop on Grand Avenue.
Owners KaTrina and Paul Wentzel, who also set up The Wine Thief in St. Paul, want to make scratch gelato that rivals the commercial versions you’ll find in Minnesota. Instead of a highly automated mixer, Cow Bella uses a machine that gives the gelato maker a greater amount of control over the entire mixing process. The Wentzels use milk from Autumnwood Farm in Forest Lake and promise fresh, in-season ingredients.
Another way the Wentzels distinguish Cow Bella from other gelato shops is by keeping the final product hidden in shiny containers called pozzetti, instead of displayed in a cooled deli case. The pozzetti are meant to keep the gelato at an ideal temperature, and away from too much light and air. Getting a sample from one of the enthusiastic counter staff (they’re lovely!) is like watching the Candy Man from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory dip into a gleaming cask of mysterious sugary adventure. It’s cool, but kind of a bummer that visitors can’t ogle the goods.
On our visit to Cow Bella, not every bite had that flawlessly smooth texture gelato is known for. But flavor-wise, Cow Bella does live up to its promise. Their creations are subtle and not too sweet, and they are wonderfully true tasting. You want a frozen treat that tastes just like summer corn? You got it. The limited-time-only sweet corn flavor is a sunny, chewy little number that only loses momentum in its unfortunate icy texture. The goat cheese and fig, while gently tangy and earthy, also misses the texture mark. It’s really more like hand-packed ice cream than creamy gelato.
Cow Bella’s Mango habanero sorbetto is a gorgeous, ass-kicking combination. It’s deeply golden and starts off one hundred percent refreshing and tropical. Then the habanero simmers up from below and snips the end off of each bite.
The shop’s version of the Italian classic gianduja — a mixture of chocolate and bits of hazelnut — is cocoa-y and pleasantly crunchy and showcases the silkiest texture of the lot. Coming in at a close second is the pistachio, whose ultra-creamy base is loaded with al dente chunks of nuts.
One of the most charming flavors turned out to be the Rush River Oatmeal Stout. Like the others, this flavor is understated and real-tasting. A warm, nutty vanilla is backed up by a boozy bass drum of chocolatey beer. It finishes with an almost imperceptible sparkle of carbonation.
Cow Bella’s single-scoop bambino is a great deal at just $1.25. If you’re flavor-happy, the piccolo ($3.85) gets you two giant scoops, and the grande ($5.55) gets you four. The shop keeps about nine standard flavors on hand every day, but visitors can expect more than 16 choices on any given day. It might just be worth the snowy trek come January to see what winter flavors Cow Bella throws our way.
Gelato in St. Paul
1700 Grand Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105
For Fall and Winter
OWNERS: KaTrina and Paul Wentzel
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes