It was a cold and drizzly evening in early May, the kind that makes you disbelieve that summer is really a few weeks away. Then my husband returned home from errands and called up the stairs.
“Boy do I have a surprise for you!” he said. My daughter, Sophia, and I came down guessing at all the possibilities—a kitten? A box of donuts? Tickets to Hamilton? “Nope,” he said, holding out a small Styrofoam cup. “Even better.” Sophia and I looked at it a moment before realization dawned. “Dole Whip!?” we shrieked, before seizing the cup and gobbling it up between us.
For the uninitiated let me explain: Dole Whip is a frozen, airy pineapple confection that is something between a cloud of pure, chilly joy and a tropical party for the taste buds. We first had Dole Whip in Hawaii—the only place besides Disney Land where it is sold—until now.
My husband spotted the Dole Whip sign while driving by Mr. Frosty’s Ice Cream stand, a beloved establishment in his childhood neighborhood of East Norwalk. Not quite believing his eyes, he pulled a fast U-turn to check it out. Remarkably, it was indeed Dole Whip.
This shouldn’t have come as a surprise, however. Mr. Frosty’s has long been one of the best-kept culinary secret in these parts, beloved to East Norwalk residents and little known outside the town. Reminiscent of a 1950s ice-cream stand with walk-up service and pass through windows, the shop offers everything from traditional treats to a rotating menu of new and unusual flavors and preparations. There’s everything from rich soft-serve ice cream and locally-made hard ice cream with flavors from the stand-by chocolate and vanilla to salted caramel and coconut. There are also novelties, Sundays, smoothies, slushies, sandiwiches and more, for reasonable prices and good-sized portions.
Located on East Norwalk’s, 1stStreet, around the bend from Veterans Park, Mr. Frosty’s was once a hamburger and hot dog stand serving ice cream as a side line. That was more than thirty years ago before the eatery switched over to all ice cream. The establishment changed hands at some point and became Mr. Chubby’s until Anthony Luciani, also a Norwalk native, took it over in 2007 and went back to the original name he remembered from his own youth.
Just as during my husband’s own childhood, summer trips to Mr. Frosty’s have become a tradition in our home very simply because of the artisanal quality of Luciani’s menu. In short, it’s worth the drive. Ice cream aficionados will taste the difference in a Mr. Frosty’s treat immediately. The soft serve is thick and creamy without ice particles or air pockets and the hard ice cream is dense with deep flavor.
“We use the highest quality ice cream and ingredients we can find. Our hard ice cream is locally made for us in Milford, CT and delivered to our store fresh, twice a week,” says Luciani. “We use a custard base for our soft serve, which makes it thick and rich. We also set our machines to pump a less air into our product (compared to most other ice cream shops) to keep it dense and creamy.”
Luciani’s attention to detail and deliciousness is what pushes him to try new menu items and carefully gauge customers’ interest areas. New for the 2017 season are Mr. Frosty’s Cravers, a layered ice cream sundae including Snickers Craver, Oreo Craver, and a Cookie Dough Craver featuring cookie dough, vanilla custard, and hot fudge. It’s already a top seller.
Another addition to the menu this summer comes from Luciani’s wife, Rosa: Mrs. Frosty’s Freshly Baked Cookie Sandwich, which features two chocolate chip cookies baked in store daily with a choice of hard of soft ice cream in the middle.
And then, of course, there’s the Dole Whip that, in something of a cold confection coup, Luciani pioneered bringing to the area.
“I’d actually had never heard of Dole Whip before, until I went on my honeymoon in Hawaii in early this year and saw it at almost every ice cream shop we passed. Once I tried it, I knew we had to find a way to bring it back to Frosty’s,” says Luciani who worked with his distributers to find it and bring it to Connecticut for a test run. “The response has been awesome. People know it and love it and many are surprised that we were able to start serving it here.”
Mr. Frosty’s is serving Pineapple Dole Whip along with a rotation of additional flavors including: Mango, Orange, Strawberry, and Raspberry. For my money, the original is the best—after all why mess with perfection?—a sentiment that Luciani says mirrors the preferences of his clientele.
“The top seller is definitely pineapple,” he says. “We might even wind up sticking with that for the season.”
Offering catering, including an ice cream pushcart, in addition to its East Norwalk location Mr. Frosty’s is expanding into a food truck called Seaside Slider, riffing off the menu of his restaurant Beach Burger, located across the street from Mr. Frosty’s.
Mr. Frosty’s Ice Cream Shop 1st Street East Norwalk
[Photography: JP Vellotti