On Wednesday Serious Eater Lia posted about Grom, an Italian gelateria concern opening its first U.S. store on Saturday the 5th of May. What Lia didn't tell all of you is that Grom is a mere 50 yards from my house.
When I left my house at 10:30 on Saturday morning there was already a short line to get into Grom, which was opening at 11. When I returned five hours later, the line was longer—much longer, a full city block long in fact. I noticed a friend, Mindy, standing with her significant other midway through the line. I asked her how long she had been waiting in line: 45 minutes, she said. "The gelato is free," Mindy said. Ah, yes, combine a little New York Times hype and the promise of free, artisanally made ice cream, and you have the makings of a long line in Gotham.
I chatted with my friend catching up for another half hour. By then she and I were at the front of the line.
The friendly fellow in the back of the counter informed us that you could have any two flavors in your free small cup of gelato, "unless you want to pay for your gelato. Then you can get all the gelato you like." I fished out a ten dollar bill.
"I'll pay, I'll pay," I told the guy . I ordered my small freebie cup of pistachio and capuccino. The man behind the counter offered me three paid sizes. I pointed to the largest. He didn't say how much a large cost, and not wanting to suffer sticker shock, I just plowed ahead. I ordered lemon sorbet and this raspberries and cream that my friend Mindy was contentedly eating. I was paralyzed with indecision about my third flavor. At moments like this, much like a world leader does, I feel the weight of the food world on my shoulders. My counterman came to my rescue. "Do you like grapefruit?" I nodded. "Have the grapefruit, he said. "It is fantastic. It will make you happy."
The small cup was free as advertised, and the large paid cup was a whopping $9.75.
I started muttering obscene things related to rip-offs, but then I took my first bite of pistachio. It tasted like fresh-roasted pistachio nuts whipped into an ultra-creamy consistency. It was a quasi-religious experience it was so good. The capuccino was just great, but did not rise to religious heights.
I then started in on the large cup. The guy was right about the grapefruit. It was like biting into the sweetest, juiciest, coldest grapefruit ever. It was more than a religious experience, it was a miracle of modern gastronomy and deliciousness. The lemon was also astoundingly good, but it paled in comparision to the grapefruit. The luna, was sort of a raspberries and cream. It tasted like the creamsicle of my dreams.
Halfway through the large cup I realized how difficult Grom was going to make my life. I had just gotten on the scale that morning to find that I had gained five pounds in the last month. I immediately vowed to go on a monastic, ice cream-free diet. Now I had to walk by Grom twice a day with summer approaching.
I thought about going to some weight-loss 12-step program. "Hi, everybody. I'm Ed, and I'm a Gromoholic."
I noticed a beaming man looking very ownerly. It was Mr. Grom himself. I asked him about the line: "It's because it's free, right?" He smiled and shook his head: "In Italy we have lines half as long every day. The free thing today, what can I say, we think our gelato is like a drug. Once they have their free taste, they'll be hooked."
He was right. It was the crack method of marketing, and I was among its first victims. I imagined standing up before my fellow twelve-steppers and saying, "You see, I couldn't help it. They were offering free gelato right on my corner. Could anyone resist the siren call of that pistachio gelato, or the grapefruit sorbetto?
The next day the line was noticeably shorter. I had to meet a friend for lunch at noon. I quickly figured out I would only be twenty minutes late if I waited on line. And I'll get my friend some. He wouldn't be mad at me for keeping him awaiting if I arrive Grom in hand. I order a lemon-grapefruit sorbetto cup for me (I'm trying to watch my weight, you know). and a pistachio-capuccino combo for him. My cup was gone by the time I reached the subway. His was gone by the time the train pulled into the station. Oh, boy, I think I have a problem.
2165 Broadway (at 76th St.)
New York, NY 10024