Remember falling in love? Pulsing with excitement at the prospect of your lips meeting for the first time? Well it was years ago for me but I’ve found that feeling again and I just can’t get enough of...gelato? Okay, not just gelato, but gelato so good it has worked its way into my dreams.
Helados Vazquez has stolen my heart. Don’t let the Spanish name fool you; this gelato is straight off of Rome’s via de Condotti. I first wandered into this tiny shop in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport after seeing a movie at the Showcase movie theaters, it’s right down the street. As I opened the door, subtly Spanish décor and the feel of a European coffee shop greeted me. Was I really in Bridgeport?
The space was filled with a few scattered tables, some interesting old-fashioned apothecary items (more about this later) and what I had really strolled in for, a large freezer display case running along one wall filled with at least a dozen flavors of gelato. Before I knew what was happening, the very friendly scooper had me sampling out of the cute little spoons. Who could resist. Sure I’ll try the Stracciatella. Oh, Chocolate Orange? Why yes, thank you. And Grapefruit? Really, I shouldn’t. Each little bite was an explosion of flavor. One was better than the next.
A few words with owner, David Stevens, and it all made sense. This is a guy who is passionate about making the best. The gelato machine, from Italy, is the best. The base ingredients (whole milk, cream and sugar) are the best. And the added flavors, ripe fruits, chocolate and nuts, definitely the best! Helados Vazquez churns out the smoothest, creamiest frozen treat I have every sunk my teeth in to. Oh, and as for those strange little found objects in the display case, when the space was renovated, Stevens and his crew found remnents of the former occupant, a pharmacist, and decided to offer up an hommage.
Back to the gelato now. If you’re anything like me, you may not know exactly what the difference is between gelato and ice cream. Of course it’s much more glam to say I’m heading out for a gelato than grabbing a scoop of ice cream alone on your couch. But glam aside, there really is a difference. First off, as far as ingredients, gelato has more whole milk than cream, so it has a lower percentage of fat than ice cream. And unlike some american custard-based ice cream, no egg is used. And at Helados Vazquez, the fruit flavor gelato are dairy free as well. Secondly, gelato is churned at a much slower speed than ice cream, inhibiting air from settling in, so it’s denser than ice cream. That's why the high end Italian machine comes in handy. And finally, gelato is served at a slightly warmer temperature, which is why it has a softer and creamier mouthfeel. To me, this all really just adds up to extra scrumptious-ness.
Aside from nailing the perfect texture at Helados Vazquez, the flavors are just superb. Chocolate. Pistachio. Hazelnut. Mango. They are not overwhelming, but just pure and perfectly balanced. The fruit flavors are tart and sweet. And all of the flavors just taste fresh. Since there are no artificial additives, there are no unnatural lingering flavors.
I’m hard pressed to come up with a favorite flavor, but here’s my short list. Stracciatella. A perfect sweet cream vanilla base laced with just the right amount of crunchy shaved dark chocolate. No need to go digging for the chocolate flakes, every spoonful comes up just right. Cappuccino. It’s subtle at first, but the creamy coffee flavor sneaks up on your taste buds and you just have to dive in for more. And the Blood Orange. It’s so refreshing, with a soft light pink color and amazingly citrusy taste. Not only can you taste the zest, but it has that fresh sunny smell that just tickles your palate.
I could go on and on, but really, Helados Vazquez, you had me at hello.
Helados Vazques 2871 Fairfield Avenue, Bridgeport 203.333.9393
Open from noon to 9 daily (closed Sunday)