A glacier where time stands still

In these series for T, author Reggie Nadelson revisits the New York institutions that have defined cool for decades, from centuries-...


In these series for T, author Reggie Nadelson revisits the New York institutions that have defined cool for decades, from centuries-old restaurants to little-known dives.

It’s pretty easy to find banana fudge or banana caramel ice cream in your local grocery store these days, but the flavor that I’ve missed since I was a kid, and much harder to find, is simply the banana. No chocolate, no nuts. It tasted only like cream, banana and sugar, and was far tastier and deeper than the sum of its parts. At Eddie’s Sweet Shop in Forest Hills, Queens, it’s exactly as I remember it, as if seasoned with a hint of nostalgia.

Often described as the longest surviving ice cream parlor in New York City, Eddie’s is a neighborhood institution beloved both for its frozen confections and for the fact that it has remained virtually unchanged since Giuseppe Citrano, an immigrant from southern England. Italy, bought it in 1968. According to the Rego-Forest Preservation Council, there has probably been a soda fountain at the address, a two-story red brick building at 105-29 Metropolitan Avenue, for at least in the late 1940s, when William Witt, a German of German descent, opened Witt’s Ice Cream Salon there. But it was Citrano that made Eddie’s place. Apparently there was no Eddie, and Citrano’s son Vito often jokes that his dad must have thought that if he didn’t put his own name on the door, if a customer had a grievance, he wouldn’t get mad at it. him. With his father Citrano coined the slogan “Take your children to the place where your grandparents ate ice cream”.

Unsurprisingly, then, Vito (who took over in the early 2000s) and his wife, Angelina, who now owns and manages the store, aim to keep Eddie’s as he always has been. Even the boat-shaped metal dishes for the banana splits are vintage, some dating from the early days of the store.

In fact, Eddie’s entire interior evokes a bygone era – or the pharmacy in Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play “Our Town,” perhaps. To your left as you enter is a long marble counter with wood-topped swivel stools. Along the wall behind is an elaborate wood with mirrors and slots for printed cards bearing the names of the ice cream flavors: pecan butter, maple walnut, cherry vanilla, vanilla fudge, mint sparkle. On a ledge, large glass jars hold syrups, and there’s an old-looking green metal machine for making malts and milkshakes, as well as an enameled refrigerator which Vito says “has at least 80 years but still works “. The original ceiling is pressed pewter, the floor is green and white hexagonal tiles, and opposite the counter is a large, glass-fronted wooden crate filled with a colorful assortment of candies. “In the 1970s, we made our own chocolates,” says Vito. “But we were too busy.”

Deep in the space – however, due to the pandemic, Eddie’s is currently only open for take out – are small tables and slightly rickety wire chairs, along with a few booths. When I arrive late on a sunny afternoon with my friends Jolie and Gary Alony, owners of beloved Thompson Chemists neighborhood pharmacy in SoHo, a diverse crowd of all ages eats ice cream with a certain air of humor. ecstasy on the face and, in the case of a little girl, whipped cream on the nose.

There is a lot of study of the menu, as if it were an ancient text. Possible orders include milkshakes, malts, floats, and some of New York’s best egg custards – the genre with just a hint of seltzer added to the milk and syrup. Naturally, I start with banana ice cream, but then decide that I should probably try other flavors too, topped with my choice of caramel, hot fudge, pineapple, toffee, nuts (plain or in syrup) or sauce. chocolate.

In addition to the banana ice cream, there is an absolute knockout blow. I probably ate hundreds of gallons of coffee ice cream in my day – many of them during the pandemic lockdown – but Eddie’s is the best I’ve ever had. Like everything else here, from syrups to whipped cream, it’s made on the spot, and it has a deep and subtle flavor: creamy but not too rich, sweet but without that weird aftertaste caused by too much sugar. Vito doesn’t casually introduce new flavors but is open to experimentation. “If you want Rocky Road, we can add marshmallows and nuts to your chocolate ice cream,” he tells me. “Actually my son Brandon, who’s behind the counter a lot, is a master mixologist, and that’s a bit of a stretch, but he can probably produce up to a million combinations.

Joseph, the younger of Vito’s two son, can often be found downstairs in the kitchen making ice cream and toppings (he even soaks raisins in real rum). Vito shines when he talks to me about his children. He himself worked alongside his father and grandfather, who was also called Vito, from the age of 12, and says it was his father who showed him the meaning of hard work. Soon after college, Vito worked in finance, but soon returned to the family business.

I came to Eddie’s with the Alonys because Gary, who was born in Rego Park, a part of Eddie’s, has always loved the history of the area. “It was 1976 when my friends and I started exploring Forest Hills,” he says. They would cycle to the station square, with its old inn and shops. “We were too young to go to the big stage concerts in the Sixties of The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, who went to Forest Hills High. But we happily walked past the Forest Hills Gardens, with its grand Tudor-style mansions, and for a group of 13-year-olds the neighborhood felt stuck in time. There was no better break than stopping at Eddie’s.

In 1988, Gary met Jolie. It was a girl from the Upper East Side of Manhattan eating her ice cream at Serendipity 3 on East 60th Street, and at Rumpelmayer’s for a long time at the St. Moritz Hotel. Yet she is conquered when, for their first date, Gary Took her to Eddie’s. Now in their fifties, they have been married since 1991.

“I thought it was so romantic to sit at a small round table for two and share a banana split with coffee ice cream, chocolate syrup and homemade whipped cream,” Jolie explains. “Gary was so excited he ordered some milkshakes as well.” Smiling, she remembers how, when she was growing up, the people of Manhattan often referred to the people of Brooklyn and Queens as “the people of bridges and tunnels.” “And then they had this phone number 718,” she says. “But this date turned out to be the best. I fell head over heels in love with my husband Bridge and Tunnel at Eddie’s.

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