Culinary nostalgia reaches its most delicious heights at Long Island’s vintage ice cream parlors. Flavors may change — no one was ordering birthday cake or maple-bacon during the Carter administration — but the pleasure of kicking back with a sundae or malted is timeless. Here are three classic shops that make their own ice cream and syrups, and whip their own cream.
Itgen's (211 Rockaway Ave., Valley Stream): This is the youngest entry on this list. Founded by Walt Itgen in 1967, it changed hands in 2018 when Grace Zhao and Yan Zhang purchased and ever-so-slightly modernized the décor. When I’m at Itgen’s, I am having a hot-fudge sundae. Itgen never revealed his recipe for hot fudge but acknowledged what made it so distinctive: “It shouldn't be like chocolate syrup. Once it hits the ice cream it should get fudgy." I always order my sundae with a side of additional fudge so that I can top it off as I make my way down. Other old-fashioned treats here include the flatcar (pound cake, ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream) and the Park Avenue (chocolate and lemon ice creams, sliced bananas, marshmallow sauce and whipped cream). More info: 516-825-7444, itgensicecream.com
Star Confectionery (4 E. Main St., Riverhead): Equal parts ice cream parlor and luncheonette, it was built in 1911 and has been in the same immediate family since Nicholas Meras bought it in 1920. Nicholas presided through the 1970s — locals still call it Papa Nick’s — when ownership passed to his son, Tony, and then, in the '90s, to Tony’s son, Anthony. Neither the tin ceiling, the marble floor nor the distinctive stained-glass windows that look out onto Main Street have changed. The menu — both savory and sweet — remains a well-executed relic as well. Star is open every day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. so you may wind up having ice cream for lunch … or even breakfast. More info: 631-727-9873, star-confectionery.com
Hildebrandt's (84 Hillside Ave., Williston Park): The shop came perilously close to extinction in 2020 but, earlier this year, it was rescued by new owners Spencer Singer and Randy Sarf, themselves customers with decades of Hildebrandt’s sundaes under their belts. Established in 1927, it was bought by Anthony Strano in 1974 and had been run by Strano’s daughter (Susan, who died in 2015) and son-in-law, Bryan Acosta. Sit at the counter and enjoy a banana split, or an old-fashioned walnut or pineapple sundae. Hildebrandt’s offers a savory menu featuring some of Long Island’s best French fries. If you’re too full for a big dessert, avail yourself of the “sundae shot,” a 2-ounce shot glass with your choice of ice cream and sauce, topped with whipped cream and sprinkles or nuts. More info: 516-741-0608, hildebrandtsrestaurant.com