This article is part of a series of pieces called “Detours” designed to send you just a little off the beaten path from the beaches and attractions of St. Pete/Clearwater, to discover other, lesser-known local favorites like family-run stores, unique galleries, and tantalizing restaurants. Read on and take a Detour into authentic St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida!
I scream, you scream, we all scream…. for gelato? Maybe it doesn’t rhyme like the well-known childhood mantra, but we promise—you will be excited about Coolside Gelato Bar’s authentic and unique Italian desserts. Not just because of the 46 possible flavors of gelato to try—from the traditional like Fior di Latte and Gianduia (chocolate with hazelnut), to the wacky like Chicken and Waffle and Wasabi Almond Chocolate. No, that’s the tip of the ice cream cone. You may come to this family-run spot for their creamy and light gelato, but you’ll stay for the now-infamous Beerlato™.
Belly Up to Coolside Gelato Bar
One look at the exterior of the Coolside Gelato Bar and you know you’re in for a funky experience. This cozy gelateria in historic downtown Palm Harbor is painted bright red-orange and lined with twinkling patio lights. Pass by the paved outdoor seating area into the café and belly up to the gelato bar. You’ll likely be served by owners Mario and Leila Barbara who brought their love of gelato back with them from a special trip to Italy in 2013. “We pretty much live here,” Leila says with a laugh. Mario is the dessert craftsman, making 16 gelato flavors fresh daily. Popular flavors you’ll want to try include classic Chocolate, Sea Salt Caramel, Rum Crunch (that has the inside of a Butterfinger mixed in), and a Makers Mark bourbon-infused Vanilla.
But How About That Beerlato™?
If there’s one reason to make the journey to Coolside, it’s The Beerlato™. Think of it as the grown-up’s answer to a root beer float. Seasonal beer is mixed with one of the fresh gelato flavors of the day to create a sweet treat beloved by patrons near and far. You’re probably wondering, where did the idea for the Beerlato™ come from? As with many amazing inventions, it was totally by accident. One day, a regular customer came in carrying a beer from the sister restaurant, Fireside Pizza, next door, to have a chat with the owners. Mario had just finished making a new flavor of gelato—Cinnamon. When the customer stepped away to use the restroom, Leila looked at the beer and thought, I wonder what the new gelato flavor would taste like in this? Without hesitation, she added a scoop to the beer. “It started from there, selling 2-4 a week,” Leila says, “and now it’s taken off!”
There isn’t a Beerlato™ menu per se. Simply choose a seasonal beer—there are about 20 of them—and add your gelato flavor of choice to create your own combination. “Right now, we have a chocolate milk stout on the menu, and a lot of people put the traditional hazelnut gelato in there,” Leila says. The fruity Key Lime Pie-flavored beer, paired with the Honeydew Melon gelato makes, according to Leila, “the best cocktail you’ve ever had in your life,” and the Peroni with lemon ice is “like lemonade on steroids!”
Other Can’t Miss Tasty Treats
You have plenty of sweet reasons to make a return trip to Coolside with all the specialty desserts available. For those with a tendency toward the traditional, there’s home-made tiramisu, a variety of cheesecakes, and riochelato—Sicilian brioches served with gelato. Don’t forget the cup of joe to go with: coffee lovers will enjoy the beans locally sourced from Pinellas County’s Blazing Bean Roaster. For something refreshing and fruity, try a frizzante—flavored ice with San Pellegrino.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Located next door to Coolside, and run by Mario Barbara’s brother, sample one of their woodfired pizzas, Italian sandwiches, or fire roasted wings before heading next door for dessert.
Peggy O’Neill’s Irish Pub & Eatery
Pub grub like street tacos (choose from bang bang shrimp, carne asada, roasted cauliflower and others), classic sandwiches, and a build-your-own mac & cheese. Also features an open mic night on Tuesdays and music on the weekends.
Retired from the US Coast Guard, owner Steve Boyle (just Boyle to friends) invites you to his “backyard” to sample Florida fare in a relaxed environment.