Walking into the Ici Ice Cream shop is like setting foot in an old-fashioned Italian gelato store with handcrafted wood panels, marble countertops, and the day’s flavors handwritten on the wall—a place where you order ice cream at a glass counter and walk away happily licking a dripping cone. But Ici isn’t on a sunny Italian piazza. It’s in the Elmwood district of Berkeley, California, and serves artisanal American-style ice cream.
Mary Canales, Ici’s owner, has always had a soft spot for ice cream. When she was the pastry chef at Chez Panisse, ice cream was what she loved to make the most. And apparently, customers loved it, too, because they were constantly begging to know where they could buy it. Buy it? That’s when the wheels in Mary’s head started turning. She never fancied herself an entrepreneur, but she thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a shop where I could make this stuff fresh every day?” It wasn’t long before Ici Ice Cream was born. She opened the shop in September 2006.
Ici’s is a rich custard-based ice cream made with half-and-half, cream, sugar, and eggs. All the ingredients are local, organic when possible, and seasonal, so flavors change throughout the year, depending on what’s available at the market. In summer, you’re apt to find strawberry, peach, and Santa Rosa plum ice cream as well as raspberry-lemon-verbena sorbet. But Mary has taken her artisanal approach to making ice cream a step further. She even makes her delicious cones fresh every day, starting with a batter of all-natural ingredients and finishing with a little surprise at the bottom of the cone (see slideshow below).
Ici also makes ice cream cakes and bombes and delivers ice cream to local restaurants and catering companies. They do a lot of takeout as well. “That’s where most of our cold-season business comes from,” says Mary. For more information, visit Ici-icecream.com.
Not only are Ici’s ice creams made from scratch but so are the cones. It all starts with a simple batter of flour, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, and salt.