Gia Gelato & Cafe has been a fixture in the Jersey City community for years, offering delicious gelato while being a hub for local artists to showcase their work. What you might not know is that the popular restaurant changed hands in early 2021. Allow us to introduce you to Soledad Riquelme, chef and owner of Gia Gelato from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Located at 281 Newark Avenue in Jersey City, Gia Gelato & Cafe isn’t your typical ice cream shop. Keep reading to find out why Gia Gelato is JC’s go-to spot for a sweet Argentinian treat.
Meet the owners
Soledad and her husband Axel have always dreamed of coming to the United States and opening their own business. Argentinian immigrants took over ownership of the beloved ice cream shop in early 2021 and everything fell into place thereafter.
“When we came to America about 20 years ago, we came to Jersey City for work and fell in love with the area and the atmosphere,” Axel said. “We were customers of Gia Gelato before buying it. Our daughter went to school around the corner and we always said how wonderful it would be to have a place like this to ourselves. Then someone told us that Gia Gelato was for sale.
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Since taking office, Soledad has brought an Argentinian touch to Gia Gelato while ensuring that the cafe remains true to what the place of origin stood for. They currently have no plans to change their name.
“We retained much of the essence of the original boutique,” Soledad said. “We are incorporating more Argentinian dishes on the menu, including Argentinian empanadas, desserts like dulce de leche, and more so people can experience our culture. This is another reason why we introduced Tango classes, and little by little we are forming a mixture of cultures, of what was already there in the community and of our roots.
Soledad and her family have lived in JC for many years and now reside in Bayonne. In addition to working at Gia, Axel has worked in IT and finance for over 25 years, while Soledad runs Gia Gelato full time. Soledad and her husband previously had a business in Union City called El Ombu (which is Argentina’s national tree) where they sold Argentinian empanadas, but COVID-19 forced them to close it before Gia Gelato was put down. on sale. Instead of reopening El Ombu, they tried their luck at the ice cream shop.
Outside of coffee, Soledad and her family enjoy spending time outdoors together. Soledad is an entrepreneur who loves animals and enjoys knitting, making soap, candles and crocheting.
The ambiance at Gia’s is inviting, vibrant, comfortable and colorful with their orange lettering and floral painting on the front of the building. Gia Gelato is a treasure trove of the arts in JC. When you stop by, you’ll usually find beautiful artwork created by local artists, and the cafe participates in the annual Jersey City Art and Studio Tour. Stop by the cafe for performances by musician Nety Reis, free drawing sessions hosted by Guaicora Studios, and tango classes on Thursdays led by musician, artist, and instructor Reinaldo Perez.
“In addition to the continuous rotation of artwork, our goal is to host at least one special event per week,” Soledad said.
Tango instructor Reinaldo Perez is part of the same artist community that frequently hosts art exhibitions in Gia, and that’s how the idea for tango lessons was born. Soledad plans to host the courses for the long term.
What makes Gia Gelato unique to JC is Soledad’s love of community.
“All of us at Gia Gelato, Bel, Ricardo, Axel and I love the integration with the community, the closeness to neighbors and our customers,” Soledad said. “We like to think the feeling is mutual and we create a space where you can feel like it’s ‘home’ too.”
From breakfast sandwiches to smoothies to delicious signature ice creams, Gia Gelato’s menu offers an eclectic selection for all types of cravings.
(Photo credit: @giagelato)
H.G. Point: The mac and cheese is a must!
The types of gelato used at Gia are made with imported Italian ingredients like Amarena cherries, pistachios and hazelnuts. According to Soledad, the top-selling flavor is Dulce de Leche. Hoboken’s Daughter stopped by Gia and tried the classic chocolate and it was out of this world.
Soledad’s favorite ice cream is cherry Amarena, while Axel loves gianduia, which includes chocolate and hazelnuts.
(Photo credit: @giagelato)
The word Amarena means sour cherry in Italian, and the flavor of the gelato is made with cream and black cherries specifically from Emilia-Romagna. Gianduia, or gianduja, was invented in the city of Turin, Italy.
Aside from the ice cream, the café’s empanadas are incredibly tasty and are handmade and cooked the Argentinian way. The Cuban sandwich is also a popular item.
Soledad plans to expand the menu and bring various flavors and specialty drinks to the cafe. Asked about opening a new location, Soledad says it’s a very real possibility, but before they start this venture, they hope Gia will become a point of reference when people visit Jersey City.
See more: A Definitive List of Hoboken Desserts You Need to Eat ASAP
Gia Gelato & Cafe is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Stop by Gia Gelato or order online through Grubhub, DoorDash and UberEats, and follow @giagelato on Instagram to stay up to date with all the happenings and news.