Where and how Cuban ice-cream sandwiches began is a mystery even at Tío Colo Bocaditos de Helado, the Hialeah shop that pumps out hundreds a day.
"It's an older thing, I think, from before the revolution," says Rosali Verdecia, age 23, who along with her husband, Jose Hernandez, opened the place in 2008. Legions of gray-haired customers have been shocked to find the $2 treats with mamey or Malta ice cream between two soft, sugary cookies crusted with sugar, she adds.
Of course, bocaditos de helado are also available in supermarkets, though the cookies are stale and the ice cream is bland and limited in flavors, according to Noel Carpena, who swings between extolling Tío Colo's ice-cream sandwiches and trying to sell me cologne.
"This is the only place to get them," he says.
Hernandez and Verdecia opened the place in 2008, naming it for Hernandez's grandfather. They use Valentini ice cream from a Medley producer that offers an array of flavors loved among Cubans. There's almond, guava, and the eggnog-like mantecado. The cookie recipe comes from Hernandez's mother. It's little more than flour, water, and sugar dough that's baked in large sheets. Ice cream is then laid out and another sheet is placed on top. Pans are frozen, sliced, and wrapped in wax paper.
"The only secret is to do them fresh every day," Verdecia says.
But all of that might change. The young couple struck a deal with Publix, Winn-Dixie, and Sedano's to stack their freezers with bocaditos. The small shop, adorned with no more than a few freezers and high-top tables, is expanding and preparing to ramp up production.
However, once that happens, the shop, hidden in a nondescript mall that backs up to a highway, will still be the best place to find a barely hours-old bocadito.
Tío Colo Bocaditos de Helado is located at 8051 W. 24th Ave. in Hialeah. It's open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call 786-515-3562.