San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gelato Shop Scoops Unusual Flavors

MONDO Gelato, a small ice creamstore tucked away in a nondescript shoppingmall in Escazú, satisfies the cravingsof both the casual ice cream sampler andthe experimental enthusiast with an excitingcombination of traditional and unconventionalflavors.Owners Esteban Céspedes and EdwardFlorian have learned to please all palateswith a range of flavors from chocolate andvanilla to passion fruit and rosemary.The store appears to be just a stall witha few tables in this mall, in the suburbsouthwest of San José, but the contents ofMondo Gelato’s freezer are enough to drawanyone in.Twelve daily flavorsglisten in rectangular bins,waiting to be scooped intocones or cups and toppedwith a shard of macadamiacookie.While most ice creamshops have a variety of thetraditional staple flavors –vanilla, chocolate andstrawberry – Mondo Gelatoprides itself on its uniquefrozen offerings.EXPERIMENTATIONis rewarded at Mondo Gelato.Sesame, a flavor of the day, managed toretain the main ingredient’s essence whilestill being unmistakably ice cream, rich andsweet. Rosemary, a flavor of the week, wasalmost a sherbet, sweet but slightly tart.Other strange offerings that MondoGelato rotates in to its stable of favoritesinclude beer, sparkling wine, mascarponecheese, and orange juice with hot chile.So how far will the pair go?“In other parts of the world they sellfish, or meat (ice cream), but I haven’t gonethat far because the palate here is very conservative,”Florian said. “You can’t go toooverboard.”THE pair does, however, take flavorsuggestions from customers.“We don’t try to stop a customer whowants to experiment,” Florian said.In order to convince the reluctant, theyare generous with free samples.“That’s very important, because manypeople say they would never have thoughtof a flavor,” Florian said. “We educate peoplethat ice cream can be any flavor.”Jennifer García, 19, a student fromEscazú, is a fan of Mondo Gelato’s nontraditionalapproach.“When I want to eat ice cream I comehere,” she said. “It’s one of the best places.”García surveyed the freezer, shaking herhead at offers of sesame and rosemary icecream.“I like it because it’s really weird. Youdon’t get that in a lot of places,” she said.They offer both “traditional and nontraditional(flavors) – we try to make everyonehappy,” Florian said.THE flavors aren’t the only thing differentabout this store. There are three maindifferences between gelato and traditionalice cream.“The first difference is that gelato is lessthan 25% air,” Florian said. “Commercialice cream is about 50%. Another differenceis that our gelato is made fresh every day;that’s why it is so creamy. The third differenceis that it’s low fat, between 8-10% fat,while regular commercialice cream is more than30% fat.”Mondo Gelato makesthe day’s batches fresh at 8a.m. and the shop opens at11 a.m.THE store has becomeincreasing popular since itsopening in February 2003.The business startedwhen Florian returned toCosta Rica after severalyears working in theUnited States and Europe,where a friend in the business taught him tomake gelato. Céspedes, 25, and Florian,26, who have been friends for more thaneight years, saw the opportunity to takeadvantage of a niche market in their nativeSan José.Mondo Gelato soon opened its doorswith Florian as the chef and Céspedes asbusiness manager.“I’d never seen a gelato shop before,”Céspedes said. “Edward was the one whocame with the idea; he had the know-howof the business, and we came together.”NOW, about 600 customers a weeksample the shop’s wares.“At the beginning we didn’t have publicity,it was word-of-mouth,” Céspedessaid. And that form of advertising servedthem well as the pair seem happy to besharing what Florian calls their “world offlavors.”A small cone or cup is ¢600 ($1.40), amedium ¢750 ($1.70), a large ¢900 ($2.05).A pint costs ¢1,700 ($3.88), while a quartergallon is ¢3,200 ($7.30). Ice cream cakescan be purchased for ¢6,500 ($14.85). Theshop also offers cappuccino and espresso.Mondo Gelato is located in MulticentroPaco, San Rafael de Escazú.For more info, call 228-7741,

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