Sweet Tooth: Luca & Bosco Ice Cream

Honey Lavender Ricotta Luca And Bosco Ice Cream (32)

We had the pleasure of tasting Luca & Bosco Ice Cream earlier this month at the Harlem Helps Benefit in Ginny’s Supper Club.  With a unique flavor palate, Harlem- based Luca & Bosco Ice Cream has been captivating New Yorkers since its inception in 2012. We were able to catch up with Ruthie and Catherine, the founders of Luca & Bosco, to learn more about their sweet business.

How did you get your start in ice cream, and how was Luca & Bosco formed?

As two New Yorkers obsessed with food, we started the company as a fun passion project, working on it during nights and weekends in addition to our full-time jobs. After flirting with the idea of leaving our day jobs to work on the business full-time for over a year, we were both laid off last Spring. Given that we were working in two totally unrelated fields, and were given notice one week apart, we took it as a sign from the universe that it was time to take the leap and pursue the businesses full time. We opened our first (mini) retail location in the historic Essex Street Market in the Lower East Side in September of 2013 and are excited to be going into our first warm season.

You have a lot of inventive ice cream flavors! How do you come up with new flavors? You're based in the historic La Marqueta in East Harlem. Do you draw any inspiration from your location in Harlem?

We draw our inspiration from everything. New York City, with its many diverse and multicultural neighborhoods, traditions, foods and restaurants is a place that never ceases to inspire our palates. The City has truly nurtured our exploration of different foods, ingredients, and flavors… and Harlem is no exception. We’ve played a lot with Piloncillo or Panela (a type of unrefined sugar that tastes similar to brown sugar that’s very common in Central and South America) and can be found in so many East Harlem bodegas. We also have played with different versions of banana and coconut ice creams which are again ingredients that are very commonly found in East Harlem with it’s large Latin and Caribbean populations.

What are your most popular flavors, and have you been surprised by the demand for any flavors?

We have definitely been surprised (and excited) by how popular some of our more unusual, or less traditional flavors have become. Our most popular flavors are Drunk & Salty Caramel, Honey Lavender, Whiskey Fudge Rebellion and Goat Cheese. Other flavors, like Rosemary Olive Oil and Double Cinnamon also seem to be growing quite a cult following. We set out to bring deliciousness to people’s lives one scoop at a time, and hoped they’d be willing to really explore different flavors in offerings that are less traditional/commonplace, and we’re so excited that our customers have really embraced it! Though we make a killer vanilla bean ice cream, we’re glad our regular customers are choosing our more unique signature flavors.

Have you encountered any challenges since beginning in 2012, and what lessons have you taken away from them?

Financing, financing, financing! Our biggest hurdle has been how intensely expensive it is to start a brick and mortar business in New York City (a City that commands some of the highest rents out there!). Additionally, we’ve learned that it’s really hard to come across good financing when you’re a startup without a proven track record. What this reality has taught us though is to be very nimble, creative, and adaptive, always adjusting course to the possible. For example, we currently produce out of a kitchen incubator program (a shared commercial kitchen in Harlem), and we raised the money for our first batch freezer (ice cream machine) on Kickstarter (a crowd sourcing fundraising site).

What are your plans moving forward?

We're working on building our brand and expanding our business. In order to do that we need more space and to move into our own kitchen, and once that happens we’re planning to launch a wholesale presence at supermarkets and restaurants. We're also so excited to go into our first warm season at our retail location; the polar vortex was harsh on our new, seasonal business!,We're looking forward to being busy enough to hire employees, as the idea of creating something and creating employment opportunities for others was part of the real draw for us to start our own business.


As an added bonus, check out Luca &Bosco's recipe for a Coconut Cinnamon Banana Sundae here: http://www.marcussamuelsson.com/recipe/luca-boscos-coconut-cinnamon-bananas-sundae

Shinola + Paper Magazine + Harlem

shinola Thursday night, Paper Magazine and Shinola Detroit hosted a few Harlem food trendsetters for a conversation about our community and the future of artisan food.

Jessamyn Rodriguez from Hot Bread Kitchen and the team behind Shoots and Roots, a handmade bitters company, talked about what it means to be in and of Harlem, what inspires them about our neighborhood and why Harlem makes sense for our businesses.  We discussed the challenges of keeping alive handmade traditions and staying true to our origins. How do you improve business without losing the charm of the neighborhood? How do new businesses not compromise the establishments that have existed for generations? What do you do if the community doesn't embrace you or how do you find a way to show your good intentions?


This week, all over Harlem we saw how these questions don't always matter.  HBK and Shoots and Roots operate out of La Marqueta on Park Avenue and 115th Street, a historical market that has been the home to food artisans since the 1930s which also happens to be a block away from the East Harlem collapse. Being so close to the scene at 116th and Park, both organizations as well as others were not only the first people on the scene to assist in whatever way they could, but also able to witness firsthand just how important the feeling of community is to Harlem. Neighbors were making medical masks and tourniquets, pedestrians were accounting for missing children.

But Harlem is more than just a neighborhood. As my friend Nate Lucas reminded us all on Thursday, it is a spirit, a feeling and a piece of each person that has lived or worked here. There is a pride and swagger that we each have and despite the challenges of metropolitan grit, gentrification and tragedies it will always exist.

Please consider attending our benefit to help the victims of the East Harlem explosion. VIP tickets can be purchased for $350 here and general admission tickets can be purchased for $175 here. Proceeds from the benefit will go to the American Red Cross in Greater NY: East Harlem Collapse Relief.

*The American Cross is used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement, express or implied, of any product, service, company, individual or political position.

For more information about the American Red Cross in Greater New York, please call 1-877-REDCROSS or visit us online at www.redcross.org