Despite sights as colorful as Sam Gilliam's abstract canvases — made of fabric dyed in a rainbow of hues — on view upstairs, one of the Tampa Museum of Art's most compelling sensory lures is the gelato case at its waterfront Sono Café. On any given day, a dozen flavors of artisanal gelato (known for its intense flavor and low fat content) beckon to visitors from behind glass and stainless steel — among them pristine vanilla, rich chocolate hazelnut (aka, bacio), pale lemon, and deep garnet Fruit of the Forest (the latter both dairy-free sorbets, but no less orgiastically delicious).
Apparently, visitors to the museum approve of the art-and-gelato pairing. During the 10 weeks of the TMA's inaugural Matisse exhibition (which ended in April), Sono Café servers scooped 5,120 servings of the creamy treat, produced locally in small batches by Gelateria del Duomo owner and maestro gelataio Roberto Mori. The most popular flavor? Improbably, pistachio. Chocolate — duh! — places second, but the old standby shares silver with bacio, suggesting that the TMA crowd loves a nutty gelato.
Hard-core gelato enthusiasts, of course, won't be content merely to sample the greatest hits. Flavors like champagne and blood orange have made appearances on the menu, says Sono co-owner Maryann Ferenc. The trick is to snag a scoop before the batch is gone.