You do realise that Unity is just a shell for Gnome 3. You can install Alacarte (Main Menu editor) just like in the old days of Gnome 2 and old versions of Ubuntu. I always disable the desktop icons, but as far as I now you can drag & drop icons from Unity Dash to the launcher and desktop.
I've also stumbled upon this guide: How To Create Desktop Launchers From Right Click Context Menu in Ubuntu 11.10
I've personally love Unity (even if it have some bugs) and 12.04 (the next release of Ubuntu in April) will make it even better. I can't think about going back to Gnome 2 (it would be such a pain) and I use 21 inch 1920x1080 monitor. I'm using the version from Unity Staging PPA (5.0.0~+bzr - that's only for testing purposes) and it's snappier than the earlier iterations (and it didn't introduce new bugs for me).