10

Buenos Aires

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“Like Europe with a melancholic twist, Buenos Aires is unforgettable,”
Sandra Bao writes in a Lonely Planet travel guide to the city. The
porteños—the city’s residents or literally translated, people of the port—
descend from Italian and Spanish immigrants, who brought their
European culture to the country. Tango dominates the street, the sultry
dance described as “making love while standing vertically.” And the
food: dulce de leche, caramelized milk, graces bread in the morning;
Argentine ice cream, helado, more like its Italian cousin. Fresh meat
grilled on parillas. To many of us, Buenos Aires is on the other side
of the world—where their summers are our winters. Traveling to the
“Paris of Southern America” from the Northern hemisphere can take
over twenty-four hours.
The recession has led to economic fluctuation and political unrest.
Broken sidewalks dot San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in Buenos
Aires. Yet in the upper-class Palermo, the old world charm persists
with dazzling, classic architecture—vaulted ceilings, glass chandeliers—
like strolling through cobblestone streets in Italy and Venice. But with
the Argentine-accented Spanish, one remembers that this is Buenos
Aires.
Locals love to recount their childhood. Rarely is there a porteño who
does not recall regular visits to their neighborhood heladeria. This was
the city that I was seeking—love of ice cream, endless hours spent in
heladerias, and the deep connection between community and food.
At a pool party, which lasted from the late afternoon until sunrise,
porteños gossiped and invited us foreigners into their home. Helado
was an easy topic. Tina (“like Tina Turner” she emphasized) kissed me
twice on the cheek and said, “Everyone says that their neighborhood
heladeria is the best.”
Without a beat, Sofia described her relationship with helado, “I was
seven years old when I discovered chocolate mint helado. I don’t know

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how they did it, but they did it.”
Another porteño advised, “Eat helado at midnight. It’s the best way.”
Unlike ice cream shops around the world, the heladerias in Buenos
Aires stay open until 2 in the morning. A typical business day starts
at 9 in the morning. Then porteños break for siesta from 1 to 4 in the
afternoon. Dinner begins at 8:30 PM at the earliest. Then clubbing
only begins at 1 in the morning. Heladerias fill up with a range of
people throughout the day—children, individual businessmen, friends
on break from shopping, a mother and a child after school. Helado is
for all ages. Scooters with refrigerated trunks are a common sight in
Buenos Aires, delivering a kilogram of helado to porteños’ doorsteps.
Although many heladerias in Buenos Aires are national commercial
chains—Un ‘Altra Volta, Persicco, Freddo, there are few that are familyowned and artisanal. At Nonna Bianca, two flavors are handmade
to reflect their electric taste—limon al pisco like the Peruvian pisco
sour, and maté like the Argentine caffeine-infused drink served in a
hollowed gourd. At Via Flaminia, a scooper says of heladerias, “It’s
worth going to a place for a certain flavor.”
Damián Azrak, a blogger on the Helado Argentino, takes me on a
tour of the heladerias in Buenos Aires. In his blog, he escapes from his
day job of a lawyer and waxes on about his experiences with helado.
He appoints himself the “helado police” and brings me on a tour of
his favorite places. We stop by Rapa Nui, a shop from the Patagonia
region with flavors like raspberry and chocolate, showcasing their
artisanal chocolate making. Next is Jauja, a shop from the South with
orange-tinted walls, showcasing flavors like cardamom and Oriental
cream. Damián praises the quality of the dulce de leche and looks
upward with each taste. Like all porteños, he says, “Nothing can stop
me from having helado.”

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OLIVOS

FLORIDA

RO

VICENTE
LÓPEZ

FLORIDA
OESTE

RIO DE LA PLATA

SAAVEDRA
VILLA MARTELLI

NÚÑEZ

COGHLAN

BELGRANO

A MAIPÚ

3

VILLA
URQUIZA

VILLA
PUEYRREDÓN

COLEGIALES
VILLA ORTÚZAR

1

CHACARITA
AGRONOMIA

1
RECOLETA

2

VILLA DEL
PARQUE

MONTE
CASTRO

PALERMO

VILLA CRESPO

ALMAGRO

VILLA
SANTA RITA
CABALLITO
SAN TELMO

ALLES
VILLA
LURO

VÉLEZ
SARSFIELD

FLORES

PARQUE
CHACABUCO

BOEDA

PARQUE
PATRICIOS

LINIERS
NUEVA
POMPEYA

BARRACAS

AVELLANEDA
MATADEROS
VALENTIN
ALSINA

GERLI

VILLA LUGANO
CD MADERO

VILLA
RIACHUELO

TAPIALES

PIÑEIRO

LANÚS
OESTE
VILLA
FIORITO

1

Heladería Fratello

3

heladeriafratello.com

Av. Nazca 5274

+54 11 4821-2250

+54 11 4587-8172

Av. Coronel Díaz 1521
Av. Medrano 1904
2

A.M. Scannapieco

Heladería Cadore
heladeriacadore.com.ar
Av. Corrientes 1695
+54 11 4373-9797

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Heladería Fratello
Fratello, with two open-air locations in the Palermo neighborhood
(and even one location in Barcelona, Spain), literally means “sibling” in
Italian. Flavors like chocolate fratello (dark chocolate with orange peel
and peach pulp) and sambayón tentación (chocolate buttons stuffed
with dulce de leche) attract local families.
heladeriafratello.com
+54 11 4821-2250
Av. Coronel Díaz 1521
Av. Medrano 1904

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Like in Italy, Argentines love to celebrate food with family and friends.
Capturing that spirit, the helado shop Fratello—meaning brother in
Italian—maintains tradition in their two open-air locations in the
Palermo neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Lined with trees, its Parisian
decor invites passersby to sit, relax, and have a small copa of helado.
My sister and I stumble across Fratello after a lunch at Cafe Nostalgia,
a French bistro that lived up to its name, recalling a former era. Along
the tree-lined street of Coronel Díaz and steps from a bustling fiveway intersection, a ground to ceiling window showcases one Fratello
location. A cool breeze flutters over the leafy trees. An oasis of leafy
plants surrounds sidewalk tables and shelters the helado lovers from the
streets. Around the shop’s door, speckled tiles are faded from sunlight.
One might wonder if this neighborhood was Paris with the boutique
shops showcasing haute couture and European architecture, if not for
Spanish flowing from pedestrians on their cell phones.
Inside Fratello, narrow signs list flavors in bold behind a counter.
Chocolate lovers would rejoice on flavors like chocolate fratello (dark
chocolate with orange peel and peach pulp) and sambayón tentación
(an Argentine dessert flavor with chocolate buttons stuffed with dulce
de leche). Sambayón, consisting of egg white and sweet wine, is the
hardest flavor to make, but the owners insist on it to reflect the popular
dessert custard. Flavors of dulce de leche, the Argentine caramelized
milk, have a variety of mix-ins like brownies, chocolate chips, nuts, or
bananas. There is also “simply super dulce de leche” meaning a dulce
de leche helado marbled with dulce de leche.
While gazing at the flavors, a customer admits that she doesn’t
want helado, because it’s too fattening. But within seconds, she forgets
and orders a creamy flavor. A man uses a metal spade to scoop our
selected flavors into a cone, twisting it to make a tall steady pyramid.
My sister picks up an aqua-colored palettina, a small spoon used for

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helado. On its handle, the word “Fratello” is die cut. Like licking a
spoon coated with dulce de leche, the dulce de leche granizado—the
flavor with chocolate chips—oozes a deep buttery taste and ends with
a milky finish. The namesake flavor Fratello is a vanilla cream helado
broken up by chopped almonds and chocolate-dipped raisins, finished
with a dash of rum. With little air, the dense helado highlights its
origins. Real, whole ingredients are used here.
Within a ten-minute walk from Cafe Nostalgia, the second location
of Fratello sits near a plaza. Yellow umbrellas shade tables. Here, palm
trees stand above the opening. Inside the brick building, Diego Soto,
the owner of Fratello, watches the shop fill with customers. Like a
welcoming neighbor, he stands in front of the entrance. Diego waves
us to join him. Like the other location on a dark green sign, the white
letters “Fratello” are bookended by a red silhouette of palm trees.
“Helados Artesanales Fratello” repeats on a narrow strip across the two
display cases. Each flavor, like the dark green sign, is bookended with
a red silhouette of palm trees. Each metal bin is sparsely decorated
allowing the color and texture to speak for them. A mirror strip lies
horizontally across all the interior walls, creating depth and space.
Outside, a father watches as his daughter gobbles up a cone. Another
woman places her shopping bag on the white chair and slowly licks
her helado as she browses her mobile phone.
“Argentines have a lot of helado,” Diego says. “Because of that ice
cream in Argentina must be high quality.”
Diego describes the quality of cream in Argentina and claims that
it is best of the world. With ancestry from Italy, people in Argentina
know how to cook, he says, and especially know how to make helado.
“Our main customers are local people, Argentines. Usually, when
tourists come, it’s because Argentines want to show them our ice cream.
They are proud and want to share it. They want tourists or people
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they know to taste it, because they know that it’s good, right?”
The shop recently branched out to Barcelona in Spain. Unlike the
two shops in Buenos Aires where helado is made at a factory, helado is
made on site where customers can view into the kitchen, inviting them
to show that there’s nothing to hide. Argentines who visit Barcelona
are pleased to find that their hometown favorite is good enough to be
found in a foreign city. In Spain, Fratello, Diego says, is considered the
representation of Argentine-style helado.
Tradition really matters to Diego. He wants to make helado like it
always has been made. “Changes occur,” Diego says. “New things come
out, and we have to do it, because people ask for them since it’s trendy.
But we still sell the flavors that were popular 50 years ago. No matter
what, people still crave the same taste of dulce de leche, sambayón,
vanilla, and chocolate.”

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