We were in Pedasi when we were told that a passing hand cart sold the best ice cream in Panama.
We had only been in Panama for about 2 months at the time. A small group of 20-somethings from Panama City shared this important fact with us.
We were all hanging out in hammocks and chairs under the large rancho at our hotel in Pedasi.
They spoke flawless English with the perfect American accent all the Panamanian elites seem to speak with.
We immediately hailed the man pushing the La Italiana ice cream cart. He served ice cream on a stick (paletas in Spanish).
They were right, La Italiana ice cream is excellent. Far superior to any other cart vendor we had tried. Remember, we were traveling with a 5 year old so we had been trying all the ice cream vendors we saw.
In the Chiriqui province, most of the La Italiana ice cream peddlers are Ngobe Bugle indians. I am not sure why, but given the prejudice against Indians here, I imagine it is because it is not a high paying gig.
At the time (about 10 years ago), you could only get La Italiana ice cream from one of these hand carts. You will still see them being pushed down streets all over Panama. But not often enough.
La Italiana Store Front
Thankfully, there is at least one La Italiana ice cream store now. It is in David next to El Campion. El Campion is just a few blocks from David’s parque central. Luckily, El Campion is very big and recognizable so you can easily spy it. At the La Italiana store you can not only get their usual paletas, but scoops of ice cream as well.
Best Ice Cream in Panama?
I’m not sure La Italiana is the best ice cream in Panama anymore. Its competition grows steadily.
A month before we had our first paleta from La Italiana, we enjoyed a scoop from what I think was Panama’s first gelato ice cream store. It was in the Casco Antiguo neighborhood of Panama City. Now there are gelato stores popping up all over the place: Boquete, Paso Canoas and more.
However, I think that La Italiana is still the best ice cream on a stick in Panama.
Our favorites are the chocolate (think fudgicles) and strawberry paletas.
What are your favorite La Italiana flavors?
Please comment below.