Bebe Zito scooping bold flavors

co-owners Gabriella Grant and Ben Spangler
Couple and co-owners Gabriella Grant and Ben Spangler stand behind the counter at Bebe Zito, their new ice cream parlor in the Wedge. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

A long-anticipated ice cream parlor is now scooping up exotic flavors in the Wedge.

Bebe Zito, a new shop from couple Gabriella Grant and Ben Spangler, opened its doors at 22nd & Lyndale in early July.

Starting up wasn’t simple. The shop was ready to go in March, but then COVID-19 struck and they decided to delay for an early summer opening. Then George Floyd was killed, and operations came to a standstill again. While the community mourned and protested, Grant and Spangler decided to hit the streets, pass out ice cream and talk to people. When people ate it, they smiled.

“At this point everyone wants something that can brighten our day,” Grant said.

They had an extra delay when some paperwork got misplaced at City Hall, but on July 3 Bebe Zito opened for business and has seen a steady rise in customers throughout its first month.

Brightness exudes from the parlor. The walls are lined with vibrant red, white and blue tiles from Italy, wallpaper designed by a local tattoo artist and clever light fixtures shaped like ice cream cones and cherries.

Spangler, who created many of the original flavors at Milkjam Creamery, makes signature ice creams with multiple flavors not often found in a cone. Varieties like Peanut Butter Puppy Chow, Animal Frosting, Lemon Party (a blend of buttermilk, blueberry, buttermilk, cinnamon and lemon) and the Kool-Aid-inspired Ohh Yeeah! are featured. Their biggest seller so far has been Tres Leches with Strawberry Churros, a recipe Spangler used as a contestant on the Food Network show “King of Cones” in 2014. A mental block for many is the Mushroom Pecan, made from a unique mushroom that gives off a maple syrup-like taste reminiscent of butter pecan.

Bebe Zito

“It really gets people out of their comfort zone,” he said.

Even their more basic flavors are a bit outside the box, like the Korean-inspired Gochujang Brownie that adds chili spice to fudge brownie, and a vanilla roasted in MSG and butter.

But opening during the middle of a global pandemic does pose some hurdles to customers trying something new.

“We’re opening a place with flavors people haven’t heard of, and we can’t give samples,” Grant said.

To get around that, they try to have in-depth conversations with people about their likes and dislikes. When people order, they will stick on a small bit of another flavor so customers can try something different. If a customer really doesn’t like their flavor, they can have something else.

So far business has been steady and growing, Grant and Spangler said. Most days the shop sells out of pints, which they always anticipated being a big part of the business but have become a larger part of operations due to COVID-19.

Bebe Zito
704 W. 22nd St.