Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, the happiest time in an ice cream lover’s life when eating the cold, delicious treat as often as possible becomes seasonally appropriate. Thankfully, the Upper East Side has no shortage of ice cream options thanks to big-name brands, many of which are homegrown in New York and set up shop in our neighborhood. Upper East Site has a breakdown of the best ice cream on the UES.
There’s an excellent reason why Anita Gelato has a crowd in front of its Upper East Side storefront seemingly every time you pass by — their homemade ice cream is incredible.
Located at 1561 Second Avenue, at the corner of East 81st Street, the 25-year-old ice cream brand is such a hit with New Yorkers that Anita Gelato doubled the size of its Upper East Side scoop shop last summer.
For all the fanfare, Anita Gelato comes from humble beginnings. The chain started in Mama Anita’s kitchen in Israel way back in 1998. Eventually, it expanded worldwide, offering over 150 types of ice cream and frozen yogurt, including vegan and sugar-free options.
There’s something special about the smell of the exhaust from a humming gas generator as the Mr. Softee truck operator pumps that sweet, delicious white gold into a cone and covers it in rainbow sprinkles.
Mr. Softee sells its iconic New York soft serve from trucks stationed throughout the neighborhood, as well as a variety of shakes, sundaes and dipped cones.
They can usually be found outside the Guggenheim Museum near East 89th and Fifth Avenue in Carnegie Hill, at the corner of East 90th Street and Third Avenue in Yorkville, as well as along the busy East 86th Street corridor.
Just remember to bring cash because most Mister Softee trucks do not accept credit cards.
Ralph’s Famous Italian Ice
For a decadent soft serve that satisfies like Mister Softee without tracking down an ice cream truck, head to Ralph’s Famous Italian Ice at 1588 First Avenue between East 82nd and 83rd Streets in Yorkville.
The Upper East Side ice cream purveyor roots trace back to Staten Island approximately 95 years ago, when Ralph Silvestro, an Italian immigrant, came to the United States and began selling his homemade ice cream and what would become his famous Italian ice.
Whether you’re looking for cones, shakes, sundaes — even a Belgian waffle ice cream sandwich — Ralph’s Famous Italian Ice has the frozen snack you need this summer, all served from its walk-up window on First Avenue.
Dubbing its store a ‘ChocoGelateria,’ you can expect a tasty scoop of ice cream from the renowned Italian chocolatier Venchi, whose Upper East Side shop can be found at 1117 Lexington Avenue, near the corner of East 78th Street.
Venchi says it makes its gelato in-house using only the finest natural ingredients, including fresh milk, fruits, Piedmont hazelnuts, green pistachios, Sorrento lemons and Sicilian almonds.
Coming from humble roots in Turin, Italy dating back 140 years, Venchi has grown into an international award-winning chocolate purveyor, now boasting 350 chocolate recipes and 90 gelato flavors sold at more than 175 locations worldwide.
Despite its Danish-sounding name, Häagen-Dazs premium ice cream was born in New York City and now has a scoop shop on the Upper East Side, located at 1306 Second Avenue between East 68th and 69th Streets.
Polish immigrants Reuben and Rose Mattus founded the company in The Bronx in 1960, choosing to honor Denmark with the brand’s name because of that country’s efforts to protect Jews during World War II.
Through June 14th, try Häagen-Dazs special seasonal treat, the Pineapple Coconut Shake. Inspired by a Piña Colada — sans alcohol — it comes topped with whipped cream and garnished with a slice of fresh pineapple.
The New York City-based ice cream purveyor started 15 years ago with a single truck in Soho. Now, Van Leeuwen has two locations serving scoops of its premium ice cream on the Upper East Side.
If dairy isn’t a part of your diet, try one of the chain’s vegan ice cream flavors, including Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Strawberry Shortcake, Mint Chip and Churros & Fudge — all made from scratch at the company’s factory in Brooklyn.
Find Van Leeuwen at 1625 Second Avenue, East 84th and 85th Streets, in Yorkville, or 1270 Third Avenue, at the corner of East 73rd Street, in Lenox Hill.