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Summers in Buenos Aires are long, hot and humid. Many porteños pack up and head to the beaches of Mar del Plata and Punta del Este. However, scores remain, painstakingly sweating their way through the blazing temperatures in search of an air-conditioned refuge. While a cold beer can help to beat the heat, there is nothing quite like a scoop, or bowl, of Argentine ice cream to cool you down.
Ice cream is fundamental to Argentine culture and credits its existence to Italian immigration during the 19th century. The Italians brought with them two aspects of ice cream culture: 1) gelato, and 2) the ice cream parlor, locally known as the heladería. Over the years, family descendants have tinkered with recipes and created their own unique style of ice cream, the helado. Its thick yet light consistency falls somewhere between a traditional gelato and hard-frozen ice cream.
Similar to the parrilla, there is an heladería on seemingly every corner in Buenos Aires. And, even if you don’t consider yourself an ice cream fan, it won’t be long before you find yourself popping down to your local shop at 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night or phoning for delivery after a dinner party.
Classic Argentine Ice Cream Flavors
When setting foot inside any heladería in Argentina, you’ll notice a common theme: plenty of chocolate and abundant dulce de leche (similar to caramel). Argentines can’t seem to live without either when it comes to ice cream, and it’s not uncommon for them to berate those who opt for a traditional vanilla.
The classics are chocolate con almendras (almonds), chocolate suiza (chocolate chip with dulce de leche), mousse de chocolate, chocolate amargo (bitter), dulce de leche con almendras and dulce de leche con brownie. Then there are fruits such as cherry, lemon, mango, melon, pineapple and strawberry. You’ll also encounter shop specialties, which can be anything from banana split to Malbec y frutos rojos (Malbec and berries) to queso mascarpone con frutos rojos (mascarpone cheese and berries).
Best Places to Eat Ice Cream
Everybody has an opinion of the city’s best heladería, so it’s your job to go out and investigate until you find the one for you. Two chains – Freddo (freddo.com.ar) and Persicco (facebook.com/heladeriapersicco) – dominate the ice cream scene, both of which offer top-quality products, including specialist kosher and gluten-free ice cream. Freddo is the bigger of the two and has around 30 branches, varying from hole-in-the-wall takeout spots to shopping mall stands and bright cafes. Freddo offers a dozen chocolate flavors, several varieties of dulce de leche and unusual options such as maracuyá cheesecake (passion fruit) and berries with Malbec. Persicco is a family-run company whose parlors are stylishly decorated. You’ll find all of your classic flavors plus soy-based ice cream. Persicco is your friend on weekends, as it provides a delivery service until 4 a.m. Another chain is Un’Altra Volta, which is similar to Persicco though slightly more upmarket.
If you’re more of a traditionalist, check out Cadore (heladeriacadore.com.ar, Corrientes 1695). This family-run business began in northern Italy back in 1881 and set up shop in Buenos Aires in 1957. There are almost 50 flavors to choose from, so take your time and be sure to ask for tasters (and don’t miss out on the famed dulce de leche). Because it’s situated in the heart of the theater district, Cadore is a popular post-theater location. Also historic is AM Scannapieco (Nazca 5274), which opened in Palermo in 1938 and recently relocated to Villa Pueyrredón. It’s a bit far from the tourist trail but worth the trip to taste ice cream made using the same machines and recipes that were used the day it opened.
For anyone who finds themselves in the Belgrano area, Furchi (Cabildo 1508) competes for the title of the barrio’s best. This friendly parlor opened in 1959 and prides itself on low-fat ice cream (just 6-10%, for you statisticians). Choose from more than 60 flavors, including the unusual ananá con perejil (pineapple with parsley) and fresco y batata (mascarpone cheese and sweet potato). While the chains mentioned above are all over Palermo, Fratello (heladeriafratello.com, Coronel Díaz 1521) offers something different. It’s a cozy barrio parlor with a pleasant, and covered, outdoor seating area. Indulge in a gluttonous Tramontana: thick cream, dulce de leche and chocolate-dipped biscuits – one of more than 50 flavors. There’s another location a few blocks away on Plaza Güemes.
Finally, if you’re ever in the Palermo Chico area, go to Jauja (heladosjauja.com.ar, Cerviño 3901), an artisanal parlor from El Bolsón, Patagonia. Worth trying are the chocolate arabé (almonds, walnuts, peanut praline, raisins and rum) and the maqui, which is a native Patagonian fruit. Be warned, though: Jauja is famous for being extremely sweet.