Summer 2016

Raspado and its Refreshing Roots

They’re often called Mexican snow cones, but that’s a woeful misnomer. In truth, snow cones are to raspados what frozen pizzas are to Italian cuisine. They might as well exist on different planets. While snow cones are typically doused with goopy, pre-made syrup, raspados are handcrafted marvels of ice, fresh fruit and sometimes ice cream. They offer a burst of flavor that leaves cheap imitations melting in the dust.

OK, that much is agreed by those in the know. But ask from whence raspados come, and you’ll find yourself in a blizzard of contention. Some aficionados claim the frozen treat is native to Nicaragua; others insist that Mexico deserves credit.  

But to Tucson businessman and UA alumnus John Carrizosa ’83 , this debate is purely academic. He traces the raspados sold at his two Oasis Fruit Cones locations straight back to his grandfather’s long-ago raspado shop in Hermosillo, Mexico.

“When we were kids we’d spend the summers down there,” he chuckles. “We’d go to his shop to help him out — but he’d always tell us we were eating too much.”

With his wife, Julie ’84, also a UA grad, Carrizosa now dishes up his own nod to tradition, churning out frozen delicacies with the simple recipe he remembers from his grandfather’s shop: “Ice,” he says, “our homemade syrup, ice cream and fruit.”  

Still, he boasts one advantage his grandfather did not have: a degree in business administration. When he graduated from the UA in 1983, he and his brother decided to try raspado shops as a sideline, tapping his administrative prowess to make them hum. And hum they did; by 1988, raspados were a full-time business. “These days we even get busses from Gray Line tours,” he says. “We always get a lot of winter visitors as well as students from the UA and Pima College.”

Oasis Fruit Cones now employs 25 people in two cheerful shops, a success he credits in part to his time on campus. “I did the business plan for Oasis, and I do the bookkeeping,” he says. “I definitely use the skills I learned at the UA.”  

So what began with his grandfather’s shop in Mexico in the 1960s has truly become a family birthright: Along with John’s two Tucson shops, his brother now owns another three in Phoenix. And they’ve built a loyal, refreshment-seeking clientele. “We have folks who have been coming for years and years,” he says. The shops close for December and January, “and they say they can’t wait for us to reopen.”