NW 'burbs offer ice cream options

our food reporter has been eating his way through the northwest suburbs recently in search of some creamy treats.

Over the past two summers, we've visited legendary places up north, such as Homer's or Margie's and down south, including Mitchell's, Gayety's and Cunis Candies. But we've neglected our northwest neighbors. And no surprise, there is plenty of heavy cream, sugar and chocolate up there as well.

It's another hot day in Libertyville, another busy time for Summit Fresh Ice Cream and Gelato. In just their second season, they've managed to capture the local market with super-premium ice cream - think butterfat in excess of 13 percent - with a rotation of about two dozen flavors.

"We also have a wish list. When customers ask for certain flavors, they think of combinations, we write it on a China marker on the cabinet and we make it as soon as we can," said Guy Stehley, Summit Ice Cream & Gelato.

The signature flavor is the Summit Swirl: rich coffee embedded with dark chocolate and caramel. But don't overlook the strawberry-banana or the triple berry.

"Three different berries, whatever's available," said Stehley.

Live music adds to the ambience as do a half-dozen gelato flavors, including a soft and creamy stracciatella, or chocolate chip. Stehley says this time of year he's scooping all day.

"This is ice cream season," he said.

For the past eight years, Greg DiPiero's been whipping up three daily flavors of frozen custard at his namesake stand in Mundelein. This thicker, creamier cousin to ice cream is highly addictive in places like Milwaukee and St. Louis.

"It's so much more rich and creamy, compared to ice cream," DiPiero said. "Ours is only ten percent fat, where most ice creams, especially the real cheap ones, are 13, 14, as far as fat."

There's always vanilla and chocolate, plus one variable, such as pistachio. Their signature? A killer turtle sundae with layers of vanilla custard, chocolate and caramel sauce, topped off with pecans.

"Turtle's humongous, biggest seller we have here," said DiPiero.

Also in its eighth season, the wildly popular Capannari's in Mt. Prospect attracts ice cream lovers from all over the northwest suburbs. Part of it is due to the bucolic park adjacent to the store, but also because of their unique flavors.

"Green tea and ginger are popular right now, so he's got those in; he did lavender last year, marscarpone and pear," said Katie Dolan Dix, Capannari's.

You'll still find solid strawberry shakes and hot fudge sundaes but consider the trio of chip flavors: including coconut, peanut butter and black raspberry.

"In the industry, vanilla and chocolate would be the most popular, but since we're such a niche, gourmet shop, our black raspberry chip rivals it," said Dolan Dix.

Other interesting flavors available now from Capannari's include peach, sweet cream and - what we're sure is Jerry Taft's favorite - cake batter.

Summit Fresh Ice Cream & Gelato
355 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville

Greg's Frozen Custard
1490 S. Lake St., Mundelein

10 S. Pine St., Mt. Prospect

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