When Pola opened in November, Mérida’s Santa Lucia neighborhood continued its ascent as a haven for all things tasty and colorful. We spoke to Rane, Carlos, Amelia and Oliverio — whose diverse backgrounds are reflected in their 15 flavors — about Yucatán’s first artisanal gelato shop.
Congratulations on opening! Did you know that already you’re the 11th favorite Mérida restaurant on TripAdvisor? What do you attribute your quick success to?
It seems that others were looking for the same thing. We make an authentic Italian gelato with all-natural ingredients that we source as locally as possible.
People really appreciate that they can taste the flavors of our fruit, nuts, and spices and that they’re not hidden under too much sugary sweetness. And we sell it at a reasonable price. We want everyone to be able to enjoy our gelato.
Four founding owners run Pola, each representing a different country. How did you all meet, and how does this diversity reflect on Pola?
We come from Guatemala, the U.S., Mexico, and Poland. We met through mutual friends in Mérida and instantly hit it off — we share our love for great ice cream and locally-made food, for one thing! Our diversity has really turned out to be a great asset for Pola. Our flavors reflect our different tastes and backgrounds.
When coming up with flavors, we try to provide people’s classic favorites (who doesn’t love strawberry ice cream?) with unique flavors from around Mérida— Mango with Chile, anyone? And flavors from our different backgrounds: Amelia is currently working up a traditional Polish flavor with dried fruits and nuts, for example.
How do four people reach a consensus when you need to make a decision?
We each have our different strengths. Amelia is a great cook and she comes up with most of the flavors and makes our amazing gelatos and sorbets. Oliverio cooks up the best cones we’ve ever eaten. Carlos knows the local market and knows how to create an experience in the shop that leaves our customers smiling. Rane mostly just eats the ice cream (oh, and handles our marketing). So we mostly stick with our strengths and go from there.
What was the most difficult thing about opening Pola? And what was the most satisfying?
It was a big risk for us and we were pretty nervous. We didn’t know how we would work together as business owners. We didn’t know if people were as crazy about good ice cream as we were and whether they would find our shop and keep coming back for more. The hardest thing was just taking the leap and deciding to go for it.
The most satisfying thing about running Pola is watching people try our ice cream for the first time and loving it. There’s nothing like having gelato lovers tell you that yours is the best they’ve had. The second most satisfying thing is when they come back for more!
I love the mural on the right when you walk in. Is there a story behind it?
Amelia painted that skyline of Pula, Croatia — a beautiful city on the Adriatic Sea. Pula was previously part of Italy and it is still pronounced Pola in Italian. Summer in Pula features lots of great gelato to keep you cool while you marvel at the ancient Roman ruins and browse the colorful markets. The history and the vibrancy are a lot like what we find in Mérida.
We wanted our gelato shop to be colorful and flavorful and a place for people from different places to come together to enjoy great food. The Pula skyline is the perfect backdrop for our Yucatecan ingredients, international flavors, and great conversations.
One online reviewer said yours is the best gelato she ever had. What makes your gelato stand out from the rest?
Our gelato is not overwhelmingly sweet — we make sure that the flavors really come out in each bite. It’s made in small batches with all-natural, local ingredients. Our cones are handmade and always fresh. We put a lot of thought and a lot of love into what we do. It’s really a difference that you can taste.
And finally, what’s your favorite flavor, and why?
This is a hard question! We all have our favorites.
Rane’s a big fan of the mint chocolate chip — it has a fresh mint taste that you don’t get in any other place.
Oliverio loves the Chocolate with Chile— it has an amazing chocolaty-ness that is followed with the nicest hint of spice at the end.
Amelia loves the Mango with Chile — it’s incredibly refreshing.
And Carlos is torn between the Chocolate and the Pumpkin Spice. But we’re always coming out with new flavors, so our favorites are constantly changing! Soon we’ll add some unique toppings, so stay tuned!
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