“I’ve always been intrigued – and somewhat obsessed – with the idea of a food truck,” muses Providence entrepreneur Linnette Lopez Torres. Two summers ago, she was working as a medication technician while pursuing her nursing degree through CCRI, when serendipitously, a family member was looking to sell what Torres describes as “an old beat-up hunk of metal disguised as a step-van.” She bought the truck for next to nothing and grew one step closer to her dream of what, at the time, was going to be a chicken and waffle truck. But when Torres took a trip to California shortly after purchasing the deal on wheels, she stumbled across a new obsession: taiyaki.
Taiyaki is a traditional Japanese dessert: A fish-shaped cake filled with red bean paste, custard, chocolate, or even cheese and sweet potato. “I was kind of blown away at the different direction in which I could take this dessert and elevate it, while at the same time telling my story,” Torres explains. As a child, she remembers experimenting with store-bought ice cream, adding cereal or, as she grew older, guava and cheese. This, she realized, would be the perfect twist to taiyaki. “In Rhode Island, there was nothing like this. I figured I should bring this home, give it my own flair, and introduce it to the state.”
And so, Helado Taiyaki was formed, combining Japanese pastry with inspired ice cream. Torres dove head-first into sourcing organic ice cream and ingredients, revamping the truck, and developing a brand that looks as good as it tastes. Finally, in summer of 2020, the bright blue truck trundled onto the streets of Prov to dish out Insta-worthy spirals of soft-serve ice cream piled in the mouths of stuffed piscine cones.
The menu features flavors like matcha and passionfruit taiyaki filled with Nutella and custard, and toppings such as cookie crumbles, Pocky sticks, and a variety of drizzles. Helado Taiyaki’s signature cone, and Torres’ personal favorite, is the Maria Maria: Vanilla soft serve on a guava and cream cheese taiyaki, finished with traditional Spanish Maria cookie crumbles and homemade guava drizzle. “This cone represents me experimenting with my palate,” explains Torres, referring back to her early ice cream inventions. “This cone is my childhood. It’s a full circle moment.”
Despite the milestones Torres has achieved in an equally unmatched year, her ever-ambitious spirit means there’s more in store – literally – as she puts the finishing touches on her first brick-and-mortar at 102 Dean Street. “I love ice cream even when it’s freezing out,” she says, “and ice cream shops are mostly seasonal in Rhode Island.”
Right now, Torres reveals an anticipated soft opening this month, during which 100 of their Instagram supporters will get the opportunity to enjoy a cone free-of-charge. “Sort of like a token of my appreciation,” says Torres with a big smile. For updates, menu, and more, follow Helado Taiyaki on Instagram: @helado_taiyaki.