The Food Critic: Italian Gelato in Xela
By Steve Mullaney
Everyone knows about Bake Shop. In fact, before I arrived in Xela for the first time in 2007 a friend told me that I was required to go to the famous Mennonite bakery and try to sneak a donut back through customs for her. Why? Because the goodies at Bake Shop are straight-up delicious and it’s common courtesy to want to pass that along. Considering that the omnipresence of Bake Shop love is driven by the love of sweets of Quetzaltecos national and foreign alike, I am surprised that it’s taken me over a year to get into “Heladeria Italiana Abby” (19 Ave, 0-43, Zona 1). Why is nobody talking about this? Or, more appropriately, in all caps: WHY IS NOBODY TALKING ABOUT THIS?!?!?!
Gelato, for the uninitiated, is like ice cream, but significantly better. Gelato is Michael Jackson; ice cream is Jermaine Jackson. Gelato is Antigua; ice cream is Chimaltenango. Gelato is the love that passes from person to person; ice cream is the H1N1 virus that passes from person to person. Well, maybe not that bad, but the way that the Italian courts test for sanity is by placing a bowl of ice cream and a bowl of gelato in front of the accused—if they reach for the gelato then they are fit to stand trial. Point is, if there’s gelato then you eat it, and more people need to eat the delicious gelato at Heladeria Italiana Abby.
Sadly, the custom at Abby’s is to put toppings on gelato like makeup on a two-dollar whore. (Fun economic fact: the cost of a two-scoop dish (Q10) is less than the cost of the abovementioned two-dollar whore (Q16.50) according to the most recent exchange rate).
Toppings are not necessary because the freshness and flavor of the gelato will delight you without need for adulteration. Recommended flavors include Swiss Chocolate, Pistachio (with real chunks of pistachio!) and strawberry.
Abby also gets creative (drunk?) when she’s bored: there were seasonal flavors like ronpopo (the eggnog-y liqueur made in Salcaja), Bailey’s and Kahlua as well.
While you can certainly take your gelato to-go, it’s highly recommended that you plan on eating at Abby’s. The olde-timey feel will transport you back to yesteryear and the ambiance (comfy chairs, cool dishes, no reggaeton) is nice too. Besides, the gelato at this hidden gem is so good that you’ll want to eat one dish there and one on the road.