After a long and notorious monologue at Hicks, the Old-Fashioned Mr. Jennings, self-styled lovable tyrant, is running the world from his own cozy, fresh, red-white-and-blue empire at 28 East 70th Street. It is French, says Jennings, smoothing his apache neckerchief, because "I'm a little Napoleon . . . get it?" And it is Early American too because . . . maybe the graphics designer got confused. The menu is fractured French, with Mr. Jennings' Scream Delights at $2.95 and up. Hicks fancier productions are here renamed: "Le Madame Mere, L'Elba, Chaud-Froid, Le Hot Fudge Désirée. Counter prices are lower, after-theatre prices are higher. There is lunch, intense rivalry for the status tables from ladies dining with their decorators, a light pre-theatre dinner and homey philosophy from Mr. Jennings: "First God created heaven and earth. Then he created soda fountains. And that is how it should be. Don't let the devil fill your mind with thoughts of calories . . . Always be polite to Mr. Jennings. He'll keep us young forever. He doesn't care for war, he doesn't care for jewels, he doesn't care for architecture. Mr. Jennings knows what counts. Sodas. And heavenly sweets. Blasphemous blendings of delectable fruits. No matter how many years you live, everything in Mr. Jennings' place tastes as good as treats did when you were a kid. Guaranteed." Open till midnight.
The tartufo at Trattoria is an honorable, unashamed steal from Tre Scalini in Rome's Piazza Navona—the same stinging voluptuousness of chocolate, dense, dark and velvety, a brandied cherry at its core, spiked with rum and Strega, slathered with shingles of dark bitter chocolate. It is served far too frozen. A serious tartufo fancier will command that one be set aside to mellow during lunch . . . or he may call ahead as he would to order a rare old wine decanted. There is a born-confectionary master in the Trattoria kitchen, Lorenzo Dolcino (O! Destino!), apprenticed to an ice cream parlor at the age of nine. Dolcino blends gelato two or three times a week, a few gallons at a time, from scratch, not a mix, with imported and domestic flavorings, 18 per cent butterfat and almost negligible overrun. His caffé is espresso, the lemon ice tart, intoxicating . . . citrus speed. The granita di caffé is strong, black, subtly sweetened; the pistachio, a bland disappointment. The sign on the door says ITALIANS ARE BEAUTIFUL. Our waiter, alas, was not. Asked to describe the duomo Lorenzo, 95 cents, the chef's proud creation of frozen zabagliogne, custard, buttercream, Grand Mariner and crushed macaroons, he called it "ice cream with some stuff." The eight-ounce coppa gelato caffé, 95 cents, arrived exquisitely mellow. "Sophia," $1.50, was an insult to newly awakened feminist sensitivities. Atop a torso of rum-soaked sponge cake and berries, two scoops of gelato—side by side, each topped with a strawberry aureole and a pignoli nut. We were not amused. Open 7:30 to 3:30 a.m. Pan Am Building.
". . . A serious tartufo fancier will have one set aside to mellow during lunch, or order it ahead as he would a rare wine . . ."
Everything at Rumpelmayer's tastes like undiluted quality: the best ice cream, real whipped cream, superior fruit toppings, French fan biscuits, proper and restained. Nothing to make the pulse race . . . but very good. Sundaes, $1; sodas, 90 cents; ice cream, 80 cents; banana splits, $1.75. The shop is genteel, faintly old-world, little-old-lady and jaded-moppet populated . . . but warm just the same. At the St. Moritz, Central Park South, just east of Sixth Avenue.
When Joe Valachi was captive for 1,001 nights spinning tales about a shadow kingdom called Cosa Nostra, his one regret was enforced exile from Ferrara's, the beloved pasticceria at 195 Grand Street. Ferrara's is the Deux Maggots of Little Italy. I'm so hooked on the cannoli alla Siciliana, I rarely indulge in the gelato. But it is blended on the premises, lean (8 per cent butterfat) and heavy (low overrun), more authentic than Trattoria's creamy glamorized version. Spumoni, tortoni, gelati and ices, 40 and 50 cents. Spumoni by the pint, $1.50.
Even the most cynical and irreverent New Yorker still believes in Schrafft's. Love is blind. I find Schrafft's ice cream slightly anemic and its sundaes choreographed for little old ladies who eat like birds. The Broadway sundae, one small scoop of chocolate, is served in a shallow glass dish, admittedly classy, with good chocolate sauce, seven fine toasted almonds, a handful of pecans. Only 75 cents. There was even less vanilla beneath a marshmallow-hot butterscotch coverlet. Oh, well, moderation isn't fatal.
Capri Pizza, just east of the seamy crossroads of Broadway and 72nd Street, is a pop food stand with one patrician aberration: the ice cream. It's the same quality Continental served by Rumpelmayer's and the Four Seasons, 27 flavors, including an excellent vanilla, rum coffee and chocolate chocolate chip, 45 cents a dish; sundaes, 75 cents; $1.05 the carry-out pack. The music is skating rink. The crowd, a typical West Side potpourri: chess players, old Automat devotees, young marrieds, and muggers.