A copo is a shaved ice treat from Costa Rica,...

A copo is a shaved ice treat from Costa Rica, served here at Victorias Helado in Riverhead. Credit: Newsday/ Andi Berlin

Pumpkin seeds on a snow cone? A little out of left field, but it sounded like it could work. After all, savory desserts are a regular part of the lineup at Latin ice cream shops, playgrounds of creativity where bold flavors shine, from spicy candies to Japanese peanuts and dried plums crusted with salt crystals.

At the new Victorias Helado, even Doritos can end up on a snow cone. This downtown Riverhead shops sells a cup of crushed ice with red chile flakes and crunchy corn chips sticking out the top. The spicy refresher is called Levanta Muertos, or raise the dead, a term usually reserved for hangover foods that'll zap you back to life.

But what Victorias Helado co-owner Cristobal Espinoza failed to mention, is that his Guatemalan pumpkin seed creation was sweet like pineapple. And refreshing, too. Served in a petite plastic cup with a cartoon sticker, the snow cone is basically a fruit bomb. Rough chopped sprinkles of shaved ice are drizzled with housemade pineapple syrup and topped with crisp chunks of the fruit. You’re not biting into full seeds like you’d imagine. The pepitas, he said, are instead ground to a powder and used to thicken the syrup and add a nutty undertone.

“This is more typical in Guatemala,” Espinoza said. He grew up on the Guatemala-Mexico border across from the Mexican state of Chiapas. It's a place where both Mexican and Guatemalan varieties of shaved ice commingle, he said. In Guatemala they are called granizados, which translates to "hail," and in Mexico, raspados refers to the shaving of the blocked ice on a snow cone cart. Espinoza opened the shop with his son Henry and wife, Marleny, in March, naming it after the couple's daughter Victoria.

The Riverhead shop is one of the few places where you can sample both spellbinding varieties of granizados and raspados. It also carries other shaved ice styles from El Salvador and Costa Rica, like the fabulous strawberry copo sweetened with condensed milk and topped with dried milk powder. Based in a former frozen yogurt cafe, Victorias Helado also has ice cream and frozen yogurt. And in true Latin snack shop tradition, the shop will serve you a tricked-out bag of chips squirted with hot sauce and Mexican candies. Or a hollowed-out pineapple stuffed with a bouquet of chopped fruits and candies, a staple of the Mexican beachside. 

All the treats are customizable, and during a recent visit, Espinoza seemed eager to recreate the regional shaved ice styles that his customers grew up on. One of those was a mangoñada, a Mexican mango treat that's recently skyrocketed in popularity.  The tangy mango really pops when it's paired with pickled fruit sauce called Chamoy; a power couple that you can scoop with your spoon or suck up through a tamarind candy straw. The spicy fruit of the tropical seed pod hardens a little in the ice, in the same way a gummy bear becomes a sugar rock when you throw it on ice cream. It's a challenge to eat, which somehow makes it even more delicious.     

Victorias Helado, 37 E. Main St., Riverhead, 631-381-0076. Open daily noon-10 p.m.

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