Your bopping around the tropics, you need some ice cream. QED. But it doesn't have to be just a matter of need, like that. Let's discuss it like connoisseurs. Boulevardiers. Appreciators of the finer things life offers. And a great dish of home-made ice cream is a good place to start. Seven years ago a buddy of mine had the only quality icecream place on Isla. Now there are three. This is the upside of the "getting built up and touristy" thing that people (especially tourists) always bitch about all over the world: the appearance of Quality and Options.
The whole thing about Location, Location, Location has a fatal flaw: a good location is good for the businessman, but that might not be in the best interests of the customer. The best locations in the United States are all 7-11's and Starbucks, if you take my point. Which is: don't go thundering into the gellato place on the main drag. Sure, there it is, and they have flavors, and there are seats. But they are also flakes with no idea of customer service--and their icecream is far from the best on the island. In fact, there are two much better places within a block. Go to either of the next corners of Hidalgo, turn west and in the middle of the block on your leftt will be a great hand-crafted ice cream place with cool owners and some handy sidelines. That's right, there are two of them. Try them both. Compare and contrast in 500 words or less. Pig out. You're on vacation, why the hell wouldn't you pamper yourself to mush?
On one of those cross streets, right across from the EVIL ISLA CONDO office, is a fairly quaint little building housing Gelateria Monte Biancho. All three of these places make Italian ice cream and variations, but the sweet people who work here are actually Italian. Cute accents and all. (They speak Italian and Spanish, little English, but what little they have is all about flavors.) And they have some flavors, by cracky. Baccio is hazelnut chocolate and the also have weird words for their raspberry and strawberry and vanilla and chocolate. But why concern yourself with crash Italogelato acquisition when the hot set-ups are clearly the tiramisu (which has no English translation other than "yum") and the coffee, which is pretty obvious from the chocolate covered espresso beans on top of it. And the CHERRY. God, this stuff is great. A white cream supporting whole black cherries in a special Italian sauce. Incredismo! Prices range from 20 pesos for a small cup to fifty for a sort of lovers's cup for two. AND they have coffee. All the usual fancy Italian coffee stuff, don't worry. But what I like is that they've also got a plain old cup of Am
ericano coffee for ten pesos: cheapest on the island and tastes fine without all the steam and cream and extream. Furthermore, the signora is an excellent baker, so if you hurry you might get some of her flaky pastries or apple pie. Then you can sit at a little table, or the bench out front and sip and deliciate.
OR you can take your cuppa over to the internet machines. A different owner, but right there handy for ya. You can also hook up for diving excursions, but you probably can't have coffee while you're diving.
Up at the other place, with the appropriate name of Cool Ice Cream, there are also extras. The owner, a cute and charming Peruvian woman, is also an artist and they feature her custom jewelry and oils and prints by several Isla painters. No coffee or internet, but you can get both right across the street. And long distance telephone calls on either side.
But WHO CARES? This place has the greatest ice cream on this or any given island! She's an artist in cream, also, is what I'm saying. She makes it at home from all natural ingredients (and rolls her own sugar cones) and isn't afraid to experiment. They have, for instance, cinnamon ice cream. Also mango, banana, coconut, blackberry, as well as the usual Big Three. Forget them: they have two flavors you won't find elsewhere and they will kick your butt. They don't just make coffee kahlua icecream. They make kahlua icecream, then sift a thin layer of ground espresso beans over the entire surface. When it's spooned out, the pure coffee marbles through it for a tickle, bite and buzz. Yow!
But my fave, and nominee for top cream on the Mayan Riviera and most of the rest of the world, is the nutella, a flavor probably found only here. Again,they make a creamy vanilla, then cut slabs of the Australian hazelnut/chocolate syrup right into it like a caramel marble. Where it hardens into a chewy strata of inexpressible goodness, well-being and light. I'm totally gone on this stuff. Same prices as the other place: 20 pesos and up, depending on size and whether you want a cone. (You do.)
COOL Website and map to the goodies
COOL has a NEW LOCATION this year. Or rather an additional location: perfect, right on Hidalgo (restaurant row) between Bambu and Sancochos. Sidewalk tables and live music next door... and BANANA SPLITS!!!!!! YOW!
So Cool wins out as best ice cream on Isla, edging out Monte Biancho by a nutella-smeared nose. If you sample only a single ice cream here, that's the hot spot to which to trot. But come on? ONE lousy ice cream? Don't you think you should try at least two, come to your own verdict on a vital subject like this one? I do, and I think you do, too.