Port City Flavor | Pretty in pink: Casa Rosada resumes selling artisan gelato despite crash into storefront

Port City Flavor | Pretty in pink: Casa Rosada resumes selling artisan gelato despite crash into storefront
Oreolato (vanilla with bits of Oreo cookie) is a popular flavor among youngsters and those who are young at heart. (Photo/Leslie Golden)

By Leslie Golden | lgolden@alextimes.com

Early on the morning of May 31, a driver crashed into Casa Rosada Artisan Gelato at 111 S. Payne St.

“We live 30 minutes away. The police called us after midnight. We were asleep. By the time we got here, the driver and the ambulance were gone. Only the police and firefighters remained. They came to check [the building]. The power didn’t go out, so the gelato was okay. And the building was secured two days later, but we didn’t reopen for several weeks,” owner Raquel Umansky said.

Due to the nature of the crash that impacted the storefront and main entrance of their establishment, Umansky said they had to wait on special permitting from the city to allow entry from a side alley before they could reopen.

Visitors will find a perfect view of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial framed between surrounding buildings as they walk down the alley and through a private courtyard with ample outdoor seating to the new entrance.

The daily “menu” is a wall adorned with miniature chalkboard slates announcing the delicious flavors of Argentine gelato and sorbet on offer. Some change daily, but there are classics that never go out of stock.

“Dulce de Leche is my favorite. It’s a traditional Argentine flavor. It’s not salted caramel like you may be used to,” Umansky said.

Others include mint chocolate, hazelnut, Oreolato (vanilla with bits of Oreo cookie), pistachio, lemon, pecan and many more.

Raquel and her husband Benjamin arrived here from Argentina more than 30 years ago. Benjamin was a chemical engineer and his job with ExxonMobil in Fairfax led them to the area.

Casa Rosada was born nine years ago upon his retirement as the couple perfected their recipe for Argentine-style gelato and sorbet.

When asked why she and her husband chose Alexandria as the location for their business nearly a decade ago, Umansky didn’t hesitate to explain their vision for a place with character, history and charm.

“We knew we wanted an old, historic town. We didn’t want a mall. We didn’t want to be in a shopping center,” Umansky said.

As they share on their website, “Casa Rosada directly translated from Spanish, means ‘pink house’ [and is] inspired by the Argentine presidential palace also called Casa Rosada.”

“Everything is made from scratch and is made on site. My husband and I create it all,” Umansky shared.

In addition to the scoops they serve, Casa Rosada offers made-to-order cakes created entirely from gelato. A small is $55 and serves roughly 8 to 10 people. They also offer espresso, cortado, cafe con leche, submarino (hot chocolate) and more are on site.

Pints are sold in assorted flavors as well as gelato cookie sandwiches. Sugar free choices are also available. There is even a sweet treat for your furry friends.

Umansky smiled as she shared the ingredients that make up their puppy gelato.

“The base is made of lactose-free milk, coconut oil, cane sugar and food starch with a pumpkin flavoring and the top has a shape of a bone and is made with banana and peanut butter.”

An adorable puppy logo graces the container.

“That is Henry. He is our son’s dog,” Umansky beamed.

She’s hoping the front of their building is repaired soon. It is difficult because of the age. The building was constructed in the 1870s.

“Because this is an old house. It has to be special, special, special. The siding and the glass. Everything is made to order,” she said.

For now, she’s hopeful customers continue to make their way down the alley to find Casa Rosada. Through Labor Day, they are currently opening at noon and staying open until 10 p.m. They’ll adjust their hours and their offerings as the seasons change.

Come fall, “we add spice. We’ll have pumpkin and apple cinnamon,” Umansky said.

“And at Christmastime, we’ll make eggnog and gingerbread. And peppermint bark.”