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Even on the coldest days of the year, Irwin Goldberg makes it to his local Tasti D-Lite parlor in Forest Hills to get his daily serving of the low-fat frozen dessert that is advertised as having only 10 calories per ounce.
This is my favorite place because its just the best damn ice cream in the world and it doesnt have many calories, said Goldberg, scooping up a spoonful of one of his flavors, peanut butter. Its just so good. Its the one thing I feel I can eat and not feel guilty about afterwards.
Started in 1987 by food technologist Louis Carlesimo, Tasti D-Lite has expanded from one store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that served only vanilla and chocolate flavors to about three dozen stores in the New York City metropolitan area that serve more than 80 flavors.
In Queens, the only Tasti D-Lite is at 107-21 71st Ave. Of the other Tasti D-Lite vendors, one is in Brooklyn, one is in Long Island, four are in New Jersey, one is in Miami Beach, Fla., and the rest are in Manhattan.
Made in a Long Island City plant with all-natural ingredients and no artificial sweeteners, Tasti D-Lites greatest attraction is its taste and its low calories, customers said.
Im a long-term dieter, and I have been coming here for two years, said Nancy Chizik, who works near the Tasti D-Lite in Forest Hills. Its tasty enough that it makes you feel like youre eating something rich, even though youre not.
According to Tasti D-Lite vendor Khaled Jamal, many customers who come to his Forest Hills parlor are wary of the companys claim that a small 4-ounce cup of the ice-cream-like dessert contains only 40 calories, and their skepticism may be justified.
The 10-calories-per-ounce claim holds true only for vanilla, said Celeste Carlesimo, the Tasti D-Lite founders daughter, who owns three Tasti D-Lite parlors in Manhattan. Most other flavors, including chocolate and fruit, have 2 to 3 more calories per ounce. Flavors containing peanut butter have about 5 more calories per ounce.
In addition, although small cups are labeled in Tasti D-Lite stores as 4 oz. and medium cups are labeled as 8 oz., stores have a product overrun policy of filling the cups with more than the labeled amounts.
We consciously have a policy of giving our customers a little more, said Mark Laytin, a Tasti D-Lite sales representative.
According to tests administered for the New York Times for an October 2002 article, small servings of vanilla at different locations varied from 4.8 fluid ounces to 6.7 fluid ounces. At one branch, a small serving of vanilla had 224 calories, according to the article.
Laytin said he could not understand how the test mentioned in the New York Times article could have shown that a small serving of vanilla had more than five times the amount of advertised calories.
Id have to see the lab report, he said. We are tested several times a year by an independent laboratory. We would not put that if it were not true. We also do random sampling from customers stores to make sure they maintain the standards weve set.
Carlesimo said she asked the New York Times to contact their laboratory and to disclose the locations where the tests were done, but she received no response from the company.
All Tasti D-Lite flavors are made from either a vanilla or a chocolate base, blended with all-natural flavor extracts purchased from baking and dessert industries, Laytin said. Favorite flavors include peanut butter, cookies n crème, New York cheesecake, cappuccino and dulce de leche.
There are customers who call Tasti D-Lite vendors regularly to find out what the flavors of the day are, Laytin said.
Theres someone that I work with and when I dont see her, thats what we talk about what flavors did she miss, Goldberg said.
Daniel Laks, who has been frequenting Tasti D-Lites for more than eight years, said he sometimes visits several Tasti D-Lite locations in one day to order different flavors or, on occasion a Tasti D-Lite milkshake.
We should have a Tasti D-Lite tour, he said. Try all the alternate flavors.
Over the years, many loyal Tasti D-Lite customers have contacted the company to ask what they should do if they want to open up their own Tasti D-Lite vending location, Laytin said. Most do not follow up, however, and so far the only vendor outside of the New York City metropolitan area is the one in Miami Beach.
Our typical customer is usually health- or diet-conscious, and in Manhattan many people would substitute Tasti D-Lite for what would otherwise be their lunch, said Laytin with a laugh. Ill tell you, I have seen people park in no-parking zones and get a ticket to get an 8-ounce Tasti D-Lite.
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by email at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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