By Susan Baldani
Zita’s Homemade Ice Cream, located in New Providence since 2000, is a family owned and run business. Started by Peter Elefante’s father Robert and his Uncle Al, the shop is named after his grandmother.
Peter, who grew up in New Providence, took over in 2004 and now owns the business. His sister, Kathleen Anderson, helps manage the shop and makes ice cream. “She has been working here since she was 13 years old. She knows pretty much everything I know,” said Peter.
All their ice cream is made on-site, and Zita’s has won a number of awards for their flavors. One of the biggest sellers is their signature flavor named 91716. Bursting with chocolate covered pretzels, peanut butter cups, caramel, chocolate chips and vanilla ice cream, it’s easy to see why. Another popular flavor is Kong, made with banana ice cream, caramel, chocolate chips and pecans.
“We have all the traditional toppings like maraschino cherries, wet and dry walnuts, a black cherry topping we get from Italy, which is fantastic, fresh pineapple and strawberry toppings, fudge, caramel, M&Ms, gummy bears, sprinkles, peanut butter cups and more,” said Peter. “There is something for everyone when it comes to toppings and most of the old school stuff too like the pineapple,”
Cakes are also a big part of their business. They usually have the traditional chocolate and vanilla with chocolate crunch in the middle in stock, but they are so popular that there have been times that they’ve run out of them.
“We sometimes cannot make enough,” said Peter.
Custom-made cakes can now be ordered online and can be any combination of flavors. They also do custom edible images and everyday popular images. “So if you want Mickey on your cake or a picture of your grandparent, we can do it,” said Peter.
Besides traditional soft serve and hard ice cream, they also sell ice cream cupcakes; they look just like cupcakes with sprinkles, but are made entirely of ice cream. They have also brought back their chocolate chip sandwiches. They have been such a hit that they had to hire someone just to make these every day. “We sell hundreds of them and can barely keep them stocked,” he said.
“We also started selling freshly baked Belgian waffles in the shop and they are so good you can eat them plain,” said Peter. “But we make waffle sundaes with them.”
Peter also gives his employees a lot of credit for their success. Even when the shop is busy and the lines are out the door, they provide high-quality customer service.
“We want to make sure everyone leaves here with a smile on their face, and they do a really great job of doing that,” said Peter.
Zita’s Homemade Ice Cream is open all year round. In December, they also sell Christmas trees in the back lot and have been doing that before Zita’s was even there.
Written for The Showcase Magazine in Warren, New Jersey.