Ice cream culture runs deep—Somerville businessman Steve Herrell is widely credited with launching a national craze for gourmet ice cream back in the 1970s, with his innovations in high butterfat content and mix-ins.
We still have some of the top frozen treats in the country, with proprietors all over the North Shore proudly crafting their own—from cones of classic coffee to Beef Three Way (yes—you read that right). But no place can stake a claim to ice cream history like Richardson’s Farm. With a milk pedigree dating all the way back to the 1600s, and nearly 70 years of experience freezing it into a dessert, Richardson’s has an undisputed hold on the market. In fact, chances are that if the ice cream stand in your neighborhood doesn’t churn its own, it offers a selection from the giant’s line up of a startling number of flavors.
“We try to keep our list down to about 80, but every year we test new flavors,” says Ned Bolth, who works at the Middleton company that produces hundreds of thousands of gallons of ice cream each year. “Even with all that testing and tasting, our focus remains on making sure we do the simple, time-tested flavors as perfectly as we can.”
Today, the farm is run by the ninth generation of Richardsons. “It is all about wholesome tradition [and] spending time with family and friends,” Bolth says. “Ice cream on a sunny day brings back memories of post-game treats with the team, slow afternoons with family, and first dates.”
While every neighborhood of the North Shore has its own favorites, the past decade has seen a renaissance of exotic flavors, rich textures, and local partnerships. We caught up with three ice cream innovators to talk frozen treats.
Holy Cow Ice Cream Café
Gloucester and Peabody
Mike Schifino was always into ice cream. “My family used to make fun of me because I would literally have ice cream in my eyebrows, pretty much into my teens,” recalls Schifino, owner and Lynnfield native. So it’s perhaps no surprise to his family—although it’s a bit of a surprise to him—that he wound up making the sweet treat for a living.
Schifino bought his original location, in a building on Pleasant Street in Gloucester, intending to be a landlord. As he was renovating the apartments, neighbors kept asking if he was planning to reopen the scoop shop that had been in the building in the early 2000s. So he decided to give it a whirl.
Flash forward just a few years, and Schifino has taken home multiple awards for his decadent 16 percent butterfat treat from the National Ice Cream Retailers Association—basically the Oscars of ice cream—for flavors like The Charleston, a pecan coffee ice cream with homemade pralines, and Millionaire Shortbread, a buttery shortbread ice cream mixed with “Millionaire Shortbread” made by Gloucester bakery Cake Ann.
While Schifino prides himself on baking most of the mix-ins for his decadent flavors in-house (try the Easy Peasy, with chunks of house-made lemon bar), he also thrives on collaborations like the one with Cake Ann. So much that he is currently working with Jaime’s Roast Beef in Peabody on a North Shore Beef Three-Way ice cream, with a beef fat ice cream base, deep-fried sesame buns, James River BBQ Sauce caramel, and cheesecake. We’re not sure what to think about that—but we are sure of another flavor we’ll be scooping up this season. Our own “The Northshore”—a rum butter–based ice cream with salt caramel, shortbread and chocolate chunks—is going to be divine. holycowicecreamcafe.com
Erin Pezzulo grew up in Salem, and has lived in the city all her life. So when the opportunity came for her to purchase the shop she’d been obsessed with from Christiana Kroondyk in 2019, she couldn’t say no.
“I love serving my family, friends, and our locals (some who have become friends),” Pezzulo says. She uses those deep roots to source as much locally as she can for her super-premium 16 percent butterfat mix, from places like Atomic Roastery Coffee and Jodi Bee Bakes to E.W. Hobbs for popcorn, and even Kakawa House, whose sage goat cheese truffles were the base of a very unique flavor. Other popular favorites include salted caramel with gluten-free sea salt brownie pieces and Banana Nutella with peanut butter cup pieces—a creation suggested by the owner of Salem Cycle that became so popular it’s now a permanent fixture.
“Baking and creating the flavors is definitely my jam,” Pezzulo says. “I look forward to making more unique flavors! We are always looking for suggestions!” meltsalem.com
DownRiver Ice Cream
It’s been more than 10 years since Amy Cinq-Mars, founder and sole owner, shook up the North Shore ice cream scene with devotion to her craft and funny flavor names—one of her most popular is Phyrexian Peanut Butter Corruption: chocolate ice cream with peanut butter swirl and peanut butter chocolate truffles. Even the regular vanilla gets a name upgrade, labeled Vanilla Sky. Cinq-Mars says she still wakes up in the middle of the night with new flavor ideas, going out on a limb occasionally with creations like Little Piggies—maple ice cream with chocolate covered bacon.
“Making your own ice cream is demanding work,” Cinq-Mars says. “Truly a labor of love if you do it like we do—one tub at a time.” downrivericecream.com