I scream! You scream! We all scream for… Italian Ice! Sure, ice cream is delicious, the ultimate summer treat, some may say. Yet, there is a whole untapped frozen universe of ice cream alternatives out there to explore. If you’re looking for lighter fare, opt for gelato or sorbet. If you’re still in the mood for thick creamy goodness, try a heavenly shake or smoothie. Bottom line: this summer, head to one of Northern New Jersey’s finest frozen establishments for one of these chill takes on the classic seasonal treat.
Lickt Artisan Gelato and Sorbet
Guinness. Tres leches coconut. Red Velvet cake. Blueberry Meyer lemon cookie. These are only a few of the uber-creative, small-batch, flavors at Lickt, a gelato and sorbet spot located on quaint Ridgewood Row in Maplewood. The family-owned operation prides itself on its large selection of seasonal flavors, concocted from locally sourced ingredients. Don't you worry, year-round frozen treat fanatics: the fall and winter flavors don't fall short. Apple cider sorbet, ginger cake, and candy corn, need we say more? Lickt has you covered, even if you're old school: try the Nutella, a perennial favorite, the Cha Cha Chocolate, or the Vanilla Vanilla (because just plain 'ole vanilla isn't enough). 411 Ridgewood Road, Maplewood; 973-813-5553
If you’re looking to avoid the dairy and eggs altogether, or happen to be reminiscing about the snow cones of your youth, the Italian Ices from Jumbo’s might be just the ticket. In fact, Jumbo's transports you back in time altogether, with its no-frills atmosphere and old world Clifton charm. We love Rita’s, with their Gelati Italian ice treats, topped with custard (and there are plenty of those all over North Jersey), but nothing beats a straight up Rainbow ice (red, white, and blue in color, of course) packed into and overflowing from a flimsy paper cup—they don't call it Jumbo's for nothing!
Nosh on a Sabrett hot dog with homemade onion sauce if you're hungry, first, then wash it down with the cold stuff. Van Houten Ave., Clifton
What list of ice cream alternatives would be complete without top frozen yogurt picks? Fro yo, ice cream’s tart and healthy cousin, is the latest dessert trend taking over North Jersey. More than half the fun (eating it is the other, of course) is the process of layering as many toppings as you can fit into your cup atop your whipped frozen peaks. For a modern and highly indulgent twist, with frequently changing flavors, visit Let’s Yo in Montclair. Select your flavor combination, like Huckleberry with Maple Bacon Donut for example, but do not, we repeat, do NOT fill your cup up all the way or you won’t have room for the smorgasbord of fruit and candy toppings.
Just when you thought there couldn’t be more, there is a separate countertop of dispensers filled with even more over-the-top add-ons like cereal, chopped candy bits, and granola. 31 Valley Road, Montclair; 973-337-8451
Orange and vanilla twist. We could end the description right there. It's a classic. Most New Jerseyans are well aware of this shore town treat, but are they aware that they could save the frustration with Garden State Parkway traffic and experience the majesty of Kohr Bros. on Route 46 in Fairfield? Let's keep this our little secret. So, what makes this treat so special? It's not fro yo. It's not ice cream. It's frozen custard. Since 1919, the year the original recipe was concocted, Kohr's has prided itself on serving up a treat that contains less sugar and fat than regular ice cream, but tastes like a decadent, rich custard.
While their website cites "other premium quality ingredients" (top secret) that we're sure contribute to the product's success, it's the eggs in the recipe that give it its signature smooth consistency, which also allows for the cone to not drip all over your hands the way that most ice creams do. Win win. 244 US 46, Fairfield; 973-521-7076
Lyndhurst Pastry Shop
We know what you're thinking. It's an article about frozen treats, and we're about to recommend a bakery? We raised an eyebrow, too, when we received the recommendation from a friend to visit this almost 70-year old Italian bakery on Ridge Rd. in Lyndhurst and simply "go to the window". In rotation are 30+ flavors, but one stands out: Yum-Yum. No, we aren't just acknowledging how good this stuff is; that's a flavor. Sure, chocolate is a pretty popular option for Italian ice, but ever notice how there's no vanilla on the menu?
Lyndhurst Pastry Shop thought this one through and what resulted is a cream-based ice that is truly unique to vanilla ice cream. There's more of a marshmallow undertone—pair it with just about anything else for added sweetness and creamy texture. We also love their Aquaburst flavor—a beautiful blue raspberry and lime ice that's quite refreshing, despite its name sounding like a rejected toothpaste brand! 256 Ridge Rd., Lyndhurst; 201-939-3951
Pro-tip: slice a banana, put it on a paper plate and pop it in the freezer for a few hours. Once the slices resemble little hockey pucks, throw them into a blender and pulse until it forms a thick cream. Mind = blown. The whipped bananas literally taste like banana ice cream. Throw in a teaspoon of peanut butter or Nutella for a real treat. Caveat is, you'll need to eat this quickly. If the bananas weren't frozen enough, or if this mixture sits out for any period of time longer than a few minutes, it simply becomes banana soup.
Here's where Amanda Bananas, a truck primarily based in Hoboken, comes in. We're not sure if this is the process by which she creates her dairy and gluten-free treat, but the pillowy soft elixir stays cool, and serves as the backdrop for some serious sundaes, like S'Mores or Almond Joy (or create your own with a plethora of toppings). Check Twitter for location information
TALDE Jersey City
One of our favorite North Jersey restaurant picks, TALDE, serves up a frozen dessert that is worth the trip alone: traditional Filipino "Halo-Halo", with a twist. It all begins with shaved ice, a snow-cone-esque base, topped with evaporated milk, which soaks in and creates a cream base. Where the original recipe would call for items like beans and jellies, Talde adds matcha green tea syrup, fresh fruit, and other wonderful flavors, but most notably, Captain Crunch cereal. 8 Erie St., Jersey City; 201-630-0077
Strawberry Fields on bustling Maplewood Avenue offers patrons the classic self serve frozen yogurt experience as well as homemade smoothies and protein shakes. Who said toppings were just for the top of your fro yo? Strawberry Fields will gladly mix in whatever add-on goodies you would like into their drinks as well! Not only can you indulge in your layered or mixed-in masterpiece: your next birthday or special occasion cake can be of the fro yo variety! 147 Maplewood Avenue, Maplewood; 973-763-3313
Sip 'N Swirl
Did the mention of smoothies get you thinking about frozen drinks? Smoothies, though filling and thirst quenching, certainly don’t have a lock on the frozen drink landscape. If you’re looking for a shake, look no further than Sip ‘N Swirl in Little Falls. This cute shake shop is located mere minutes from the Willowbrook Mall. What better way to cool down after a shopping spree than with one of Sip ‘N Swirl’s shakes, available in over thirty flavors, including Tiramisu and Black Raspberry? Or, maybe pick one up to fuel your excursion. 510 Main Street, Little Falls; 973-890-0003
Nasto's Old World Desserts
While the big draw at Newark powerhouse, Nasto's, is indeed ice cream, we must at least acknowledge the fruit sorbets. On presentation alone, this dessert tops the list—the flavors are served in the "shell" of the fruit they match. The watermelon is possibly most impressive, served as a large slab of the big green fruit, with silky pink sorbet inside to match. Nasto's supplies many of the local restaurants with these sorbet treats, so if you happen to spot them on the menu at your favorite dinner spot, consider them a must order. 236 Jefferson St., Newark; 973-589-3333
Bucket and Bay Craft Gelato
Perhaps you’ve heard of craft beer. What about craft gelato? Bucket and Bay Craft Gelato in Jersey City offers just that. Expertly curated flavors, such as Peach Bourbon and Rose Latte, begin with the milk from grass-fed cows supplied by a local farm cooperative. You can even buy the milk itself at Bucket and Bay! This taste of the country inside the city is conveniently located only two blocks from the Grove Street PATH train stop in Jersey City. 150 Bay Street, Jersey City; 201-503-5588