“I got Nasto’s!”, was a line from from HBO’s “The Sopranos”, the TV show which put Northern New Jersey on the map. But until recently, I had never actually been to Nasto’s itself, until I had dinner down the block from the ice cream parlor/warehouse at the mediterranean manor down the street on Jefferson St. There I found Nasto’s parlor and next to it its warehouse facility. Nasto’s is one of Newark’s true treasure and iconic places. Located 236 Jefferson St, with cross street E. Kinney, you will find this blue white and yellow establishment.
When it comes to ice cream, Nasto’s is totally old school — no nouveau flavors here, it’s all hardcore traditional Italian-American stuff like amaretto, cherry vanilla and pistachio, all of them excellent and super-dense. But where Nasto’s excels is its specialty ice cream desserts, such as its killer tartufos & tiramisu, reginettas, ice cream cake rolls, spumonis, bisque tortonis and sorbetto-stuffed frozen fruit shells, which it sells to commercial businesses for food service use, such as for private clubs and upscale Italian restaurants.
Nasto’s “Old World Desserts”, A manufacturer of premium ice cream and frozen dessert specialties began from humble beginnings. Founded in 1939 by the late Frank Sr. and Angelina, Nasto’s Ice Cream Co. began as a neighborhood mom and pop. For 75 years, —on a quiet corner in the Ironbound section of Newark—has sold things that, in moderation, make people happy. As Frank Nasto Jr. remembers it, Newark’s Ballantine brewery operated a saloon in the two-story building after Prohibition. Nasto’s father, Frank Sr., an immigrant from a village outside Salerno, Italy, bought the place and turned it into a candy store and then a soda fountain. An ice cream machine was installed in a glass enclosure in the front window. People could stand on the sidewalk and watch Nasto’s ice cream being made, which enticed them to come in and try some. Truly a family business, with 9 children to help out, staff was never a problem, his oldest son, Al, took over until Frank Jr., the fifth of Frank and Angelina’s nine children and the second oldest boy, finished his service in the New Jersey National Guard. Soon with Al and Frank Jr., Frank Sr. 2 oldest sons at the helm, the business blossomed into both a retail and wholesale operation. Al retired on January 1, 2011, at 80. Frank Jr. retired last November, at 75. There is more family involved. Frank III’s brother, Dean, is sales manager, and Sherry Ringwood, the twin sister of Frank III’s wife, Jennifer, is vice president of operations.
Making such Italian specialties, as Spumoni and Bisque Tortoni they used the original authentic recipes handed down from Frank Sr.’s native Nocera Italy. Over the years several desserts were added to complete a whole dessert line, such as the original Tartufo, Reginetta, Tiramisu, a full line of Ice Cream, Gelato, Sorbet, and Italian Ices. The lemon Italian Ice has candy lemon peel pieces, and made from the juice of the fruit.
Now under the 3rd generation of family ownership, using modern equipment and state of the art production techniques we still follow 1 simple principle. Always use the highest quality ingredients to produce the finest product possible. Nasto’s strives to be an innovator in the dessert industry always looking for new flavors and products to develop. Serving the finest restaurants, hotels, and caterers in the tri-state area with our landmark retail store still in the original location in the historic Ironbound Section of Newark,
People are still stopping in to buy ice cream cones as well as gelato, sorbet and ice cream cakes, many custom-made—all fashioned with real fruit, no artificial flavors and the same 14 percent butterfat content as Häagen-Dazs. “A lot of TLC goes into it,” says Frank Nasto III, 42, the current president.
“You add up all the trendy flavors—cookies and cream, chocolate chip cookie dough—it’s still a vanilla world,” says Frank III. The 2.5 gallon machine in the window was long ago replaced by large, modern equipment in the back. Nasto’s doesn’t sell as much as some other brands, but churning out roughly 3,000 gallons a week makes it “the largest ice cream manufacturer in New Jersey,” says Frank III. Most of the business is wholesale. “About 750 restaurants in New Jersey serve our ice cream,” he says. It’s largely a Jersey operation, though the milk and cream come from a dairy in Pennsylvania.
“My ancestors created this,” says Frank III, the older of Frank Jr. and his wife Antoinette’s two children. “To be successful in life, I need to take it to the next step.” He plans to franchise the brand, creating a series of retail stores like those of Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs. “I’d like to make it a household name,” he says.
On Saturday, the 14th Nasto’s will be celebrating it 75 anniversary everything it has accomplished so far. The party on Saturday will feature activities for kids, a name-a-flavor contest and 1939 pricing on its ice cream and Italian ices. That means lemon ice and vanilla ice cream will only cost 5 cents. Nasto also wants to have a lemon-ice eating contest, though he thinks it will end up being a pretty short event. At Nasto’s we invite you to visit us and let our products speak for themselves.
So front or back, 236 Jefferson Street, Newark, has always been in the happiness biz. 973-589-3333,