July 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Ice Cream on Grand: ‘The Neiman Marcus of Ice Cream’

Editor’s Note: I was excited to read the article below, reprinted with permission from The Perfect Puree. The author hit the nail on the head when discussing the amount of effort and authenticity that go into the creation of so many unique flavors at Ice Cream on Grand.

Anyone driving on Grand Avenue in Englewood early in the morning will see the diligence of Syed and his assistants churning and making fresh ice cream for ice cream enthusiasts coming from everywhere to indulge. Not only is the ice cream made with the freshest and purest ingredients, many of which come from far corners of the world, but Syed’s concern for kashrut, under the hashgacha of the KOF-K, keeps the mashgichim on their toes as he reaches to these destinations for ingredients for the perfect flavors.

Not only do the taste and chemical-free ingredients deliver a much higher-level experience than the competition, but the ambiance of the surrounding area behind the shop is breathtaking. Careful steps are taken daily to maintain the trees, flowers and sculptures that adorn the sitting area. Comfortable picnic tables and benches make it the perfect place to go on a date, with the family or even to indulge oneself with a delicious snack and a good book. I have often said that the site at night is the perfect place for a romantic proposal, and Syed would be more than happy to facilitate that. Read below to learn more about the uniqueness of this special local gem.

—Nina Glick

Syed Rizvi

(Courtesy of The Perfect Puree) Just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, Ice Cream on Grand in Englewood is a destination for ice cream lovers. Victoria Rizvi, who owns Ice Cream on Grand with her husband, Syed, says it gets its share of celebrities. She jokingly calls it “the Neiman Marcus of ice cream.”

Ice Cream on Grand makes super-premium American ice cream the old-fashioned way—rich and creamy with 16-25 percent butterfat. “We believe American premium ice cream is the creamiest,” says Victoria, who handles marketing while Syed makes the ice cream. He prioritizes quality and consistency and will only introduce a new flavor if it tastes truly authentic. Syed started using The Perfect Purée in 2019 when he came across it at the Bronx distributor Baldor Specialty Foods during a search for creative new purées.

Syed found most flavors were too watery for American ice cream but The Perfect Purée Kiwi and Black Currant translated well to high-butterfat ice cream. Black Currant’s sweet-tart flavor and deep purple color reminds Victoria of growing up in Russia but it’s uncommon in America—even more so in ice cream. “No one knows what black currant is unless they’re from Eastern or Northern Europe. People in New Jersey have no idea what black currant is,” she says. “My sister and I are obsessed with black currant so I told Syed, ‘I don’t care if you use it in the ice cream or not, I am taking the jar of black currant.”

 

Landmark Location

Ice Cream on Grand operates out of the building on Grand Avenue that opened in 1957 as the second Carvel franchise in New Jersey and one of the first in the country. The same two Irishmen owned it until 1996 when Syed bought it. He had worked in the gemstone industry in his native Pakistan and had no food industry experience but thought it would be a good investment. “Everyone likes ice cream,” Victoria says. “For him, it began as an investment and it became a passion.”

The building has the pitched roof designed by Carvel for all its shops. Ice Cream on Grand retains Carvel’s nostalgia for old-fashioned ice cream: “Many of our customers were kids when we established our business,” its website reads. “Now they are coming with their own kids to share the delicious taste of childhood memories with them. Most of our employees were our customers since a very young age as well.”

Since the pandemic when the Rizvis needed a place to breathe outside their apartment in Fort Lee, Victoria and Syed have spent winters in Napa, California. They love to travel. Syed is so camera shy, Victoria says he’ll only let her take a picture of him on a trip. Everywhere they go, she says he tells locals, “Take me to the best ice cream shop you have in the country.” So far he has not found any ice cream he likes more than in America.”

 

Crème de la Crème

Leaving the Carvel franchise in 2001 allowed Syed to pursue his vision of perfection. He had a cream maker custom built in Italy and assembled on site in New Jersey. To make each batch of ice cream extra creamy, he adds more heavy cream. Flavoring like extra fancy Madagascar vanilla and ceremonial-grade Japanese matcha powder is sourced globally. If an ingredient like pistachio is out of stock, he’ll pay extra for shipping or take the flavor off the menu rather than substitute an inferior ingredient. “His slogan—and people complain—is, ‘We compete on quality not price,’ ” Victoria says.

Trial and error leads Syed to flavors that work and he’ll experiment until he gets a flavor right.

“For us, the flavor has to be very concentrated,” Victoria says. “Embrace the change. Don’t be scared to try and don’t be scared to waste a batch.”

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