Argentinian native Soledad Riquelme took over longtime Jersey City favorite Gia Gelato in early 2021 and has since made the cafe a destination for artists and gelato-lovers alike. What makes Gia Gelato & Cafe, located at 281 Newark Avenue, so special – besides the tasty food – is its commitment to offering space for local artists to showcase their work. Between the Argentinian touches on the menu and the amazing local artwork, Gia Gelato isn’t a typical cafe. Keep reading to find out why Gia Gelato is Jersey City’s go-to spot for a sweet Argentinian treat.
Meet the Owners
Soledad and her husband Axel always dreamed of coming to the U.S. and opening their own business. The Argentinian immigrants gained ownership of the beloved gelato shop in early 2021 and everything fell into place after that.
“When we came to America about 20 years ago, we came to Jersey City for work and we fell in love with the area and the atmosphere,” Axel said. “We were customers of Gia Gelato before we bought it. Our daughter went to school around the corner and we always said how wonderful it would be to have a place like this for ourselves. Then someone told us Gia Gelato was for sale.”
Since taking over, Soledad has brought an Argentinian touch to Gia Gelato while also ensuring that the cafe stays true to what the original spot represented. They currently have no plans on changing the name.
“We’ve maintained a lot of the essence of the original shop,” Soledad said. “We’re incorporating more Argentinian dishes in the menu including Argentinian empanadas, desserts like dulce de leche, and more so that people can be introduced to our culture. This is another reason why we introduced the Tango lessons, and little by little we’re forming a mixture of cultures, of what already was here in the community and our roots.”
Soledad and her family lived in JC for many years and now reside in Bayonne. Apart from working at Gia, Axel has worked in the IT and finance world 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 the national tree of Argentina) where they sold Argentinian empanadas but COVID-19 forced them to close it down before Gia Gelato was up for sale. Instead of reopening El Ombu, they took a chance on the gelato shop.
Outside of the cafe, Soledad and her family enjoy spending time outdoors together. Soledad is an entrepreneur who loves animals and enjoys knitting, making soaps, candles, and crocheting.
The ambiance at Gia’s is inviting, vibrant, cozy, and colorful with its signature orange lettering and floral painting on the front of the building. Gia Gelato is a valued haven of the arts in JC. When you stop by, you’ll usually find beautiful artwork created by local artists and the cafe takes part 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 lessons 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.
The tango instructor, Reinaldo Perez, is part of the same artist community that frequently hosts art exhibitions at Gia, and this is how the idea for Tango lessons began. Soledad plans on hosting the classes long-term.
What makes Gia Gelato uniquely special to JC is Soledad’s love for the community.
“All of us at Gia Gelato, Bel, Ricardo, Axel, and I love the integration with the community, the closeness to the neighbors and our customers,” Soledad said. “We like to think that the feeling is mutual and we create a space where you can feel as if it is ‘your place’ too.”
From breakfast sandwiches, and smoothies, to the delicious signature gelato, Gia Gelato’s menu offers an eclectic selection for every kind of craving.
(Photo credit: @giagelato)
HG Tip: The mac and cheese is a must-try!
The types of gelato used at Gia are made with imported Italian ingredients like Amarena cherries, pistachios, and hazelnuts. According to Soledad, the best-selling flavor is the Dulce de Leche. The Hoboken Girl stopped by Gia and tried the classic chocolate and it was out of this world.
Soledad’s favorite gelato is the Amarena cherry, while Axel raves about the gianduia, which includes chocolate and hazelnuts.
(Photo credit: @giagelato)
The word Amarena means sour cherry in Italian, and the gelato flavor is made with cream and black cherries specifically from Emilia-Romagna. The gianduia, or gianduja, was invented in the city of Turin, Italy.
Aside from the gelato, the cafe’s empanadas are incredibly tasty and are hand-made and baked Argentinian-style. The Cuban sandwich is also a popular item.
Soledad plans on expanding the menu and bringing diverse flavors and specialty drinks to the cafe. When asked about opening a new location, Soledad says it is a very real possibility but before they begin that endeavor, they hope that Gia becomes a reference point when people visit Jersey City.