NOW YOU SEE IT . . . John-Paul Scirica serves delicious ice cream and tasty illusions at his new ice cream shop/magic theater.
'Do you believe in magic?" is painted in large black letters against a white wall at the entrance to Shuffles Magical Ice Cream Shoppe.
These words are the first thing that's visible upon entering the parlor, the latest establishment in a newly burgeoning Seventh Street food scene that's blooming in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa. The words are just large enough to be seen from the street, a bold invitation to passersby.
As I pull open the glass doors, I know that, surely, the message is there for the adults who enter Shuffles, as every kid young enough to know better bolts straight to the large central counter of flavorful ice cream offerings or to the adjacent area where they'll find no shortage of sleight-of-hand surprises. Some of the kids don't know what to enjoy first.
Shuffles Ice Cream Shoppe presents an old-fashioned notion with its hand-made ice cream and head-scratching illusions, like a welcomed return to classic vaudevillian fun. Housed in the former location of recent clubs like Seven UltraLounge and Society: Culture House, just off of the main drag of Mendocino Avenue, Shuffles is bringing a much-needed family element back to the neighborhood, and on a weekend night in Santa Rosa, there's an enthusiastic crowd of young and old alike, buying up scoops and sundaes served with attentive duty and enjoying the on-hand entertainment and supplies at the magic counter, where wands and white gloves invite curious customers to pick a card, any card.
Shuffles is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team John-Paul and Cambria Scirica. John-Paul is a professional magician who worked with the late John E. King, who was the original owner of the old Mostly Magic Shop in Santa Rosa.
When not crafting culinary delights and wowing customers with close-up illusions, Shuffles offers workshops and classes for young budding magicians, and will begin presenting monthly dinner shows that pair three-course meals with magic, set to premiere on Nov. 8. Shuffles will also present weekly kids magic shows on Saturday mornings.
So what about the ice cream? Made entirely on the premises and from local ingredients, it takes Scirica about half a day to complete each batch. In addition to the traditional flavors, he has been experimenting with unusual flavors and combinations.
I had a bright and tangy balsamic strawberry swirl, with chunks of berries complementing the rich complexities of the syrupy vinaigrette. I also tasted a very creamy double fudge and bacon scoop, with crispy, salty bites of bacon mixed into the well-balanced chocolate. Other standouts included a dizzyingly sweet pralines and cream and a bold black and tan flavor that pushed the envelope, with addictive results. There are also gluten-free baked goods, Italian ices and smoothies.
Perhaps most surprising about this magical ice cream shop is the level of sophistication being displayed within the seemingly simple, kid-friendly fun.
Shuffle's Magical Ice Cream Shoppe, 528 Seventh St., Santa Rosa. Open Monday–Thursday, noon–10pm; Friday; noon–11pm; Saturday, noon–11pm. 707.544.3535.