There’s no denying that coffee and ice cream are year-round favorites for many in the Pacific Northwest. Lucky for us, a number of local eateries serve this wonderful combination as a dessert drink. “Affogato al café” is the true name, which means “drowned in coffee,” in Italian. The standard recipe calls for two ounces espresso poured over the top of two scoops vanilla ice cream or gelato. There are endless variations on this beverage, including alcohol-spiked versions that can enhance the entire affogato experience.

If you ask George Crandall of The French Unicorn & Napoleon’s, located at 170 Liberty St NE in downtown Salem, he says, “The experience sought all depends on the flavor of gelato chosen. A rich chocolate or coffee flavored gelato with espresso is perfect for a rainy day.” Duly noted! Although to choose-your-own-affogato-adventure can get tough when deciding which of their made-from-scratch gelatos will marry the four ounces of piping hot Caffé D’arte Italian espresso. Thankfully, customers are welcome to sample the extensive in-house selections.

Photos by Dee Proudfoot

Across the street at Amadeus restaurant, you’ll find that their affogato variation has a little something special. “We use our house-made burnt sugar caramel drizzle; same as we use on our crème brûlée cake,” says staff member Alexis Burdick. Amadeus uses Illy’s Italian espresso, combined with Tillamook vanilla bean ice cream. Over at Wild Pear, 372 State St., you’ll also find two ounces of the choice Italian Illy espresso paired with vanilla ice cream from Oregon’s Lochmead Farms. “Try one! It’s delicious,” says manager Meghan Walz. A hop and a skip away at Ritter’s, you’ll discover a tempting selection of Bontà Natural Artisan Gelato out of Bend, Oregon to partner with their Stumptown brew.

Two other notable cafés on State Street that feature this Italian delight are Dolce Mama’s and Taproot. Dolce Mama’s use their house-made ice cream or their vegan non-dairy ice cream, and espresso beans from Silver Falls Coffee Company. Taproot Café & Lounge uses locally roasted espresso beans from Steel Bridge Coffee, alongside Alden’s Organic vanilla ice cream, out of Eugene, Oregon. There are numerous cafés and restaurants around town that feature this dessert beverage; the trick is finding the ones that excite your taste buds the most.

As mentioned, there are infinite variations to the ever-popular affogato dessert drink. Adding a sublayer of cookies, pie, chocolate mousse, honeycomb, ladyfingers or tart can turn this dessert into a mind-blowing, tongue-numbing adventure! And for those that imbibe in the occasional tipple: add a shot of Amaretto or Frangelico. The Italians knew what they were doing with the Affogato!