Re Porteño: Mate And Fernet Ice Cream
Here’s one of San Telmo’s best-kept secrets: off the corner of Defensa and Estados Unidos, only half a block from the Freddo and the Persico franchises that trap the tourists – for no reason other than they’re closer, and more visible – there is a little ice cream shop called Nonna Bianca.
Inside, you’ll find wooden picnic tables, garlands of fake flowers, a little old woman who doesn’t smile but is otherwise pleasant and – oh yeah, I forgot – excellent ice cream that costs only a fraction of what they’re dishing up at the chains.
Not only do they have 80+ flavors of ice cream, they also serve homemade brownies and alfajores, milkshakes, and ice cream cakes. (Pro tip: they will make you a mean brownie sundae if you ask nicely.)
The main menu includes your typical million types of chocolate – milk chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, dark chocolate, dark chocolate with almonds, chocolate with cherries, and white chocolate, for starters – as well as all the other flavors you might expect to find at any given ice cream shop. But next to the main menu is a strange second menu full of flavors written or printed on construction paper. At first, it reads like a collection of discontinued experiments more than a continuation of the actual menu, but rest assured, all of these flavors are in stock and some are pretty amazing: vanilla ginger and honey, chocolate cake, and – DRUM ROLL PLEASE – nuttelatte, which is basically a Ferrero Rocher in ice cream form.
I’ve been intrigued by these flavors since I first saw them many, many months ago, but I could never bring myself to forfeit a safe coffee / pistachio / chocolate chip combo for something I was very, very unsure about. Yesterday, though, I finally decided to suck it up. Ever curious, I returned to Nonna Bianca to try them both and then report back, boyfriend in tow to make the results somehow more objective, though barely.
The fernet flavor is not just fernet, thankfully, but more like a fernet and coke. The consistency is a little different as well, enough so that it was strongly reminiscent for me of a 7-Eleven coke slurpee but with just a bit more bite. Likewise, the mate is not at all bitter, though it still tastes like mate – I suppose in the same way coffee ice cream tastes decidedly like coffee but is also magically not disgusting.
The mate and fernet flavors pair nicely together, too, and would go even better with another scoop of sambayon, a rummy flavor pretty popular in Argentina. I don’t know that I would buy a whole kilo of either, but I would order them again, happy to have two more Adult Ice Cream Flavors to add to my list, alongside coffee, pistachio, and butter pecan.
At the moment, the 1/4 kilo is $26ARS, 1/2 kilo $50ARS, and a full kilo $98ARS, which is what you would’ve paid at Freddo over a year ago – a significant difference in Argentina, land of inflation.
Nonna Bianca is located at Estados unidos 425, between Defensa and Bolivar.