Queens pair bring tastes of summer to you

Kenneth Chen and Ann Yu show off some of their hand-crafted treats in front of the Itizy Ice Cream Truck. Photo courtesy Itizy
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A lot of gourmet ice cream shop owners in New York City do not actually make the tasty treat themselves, which gave Flushing resident Kenneth Chen and his business partner Ann Yu an idea.

Why not make homemade ice cream that is homemade?

“A lot of the other gourmet ice cream shops were outsourcing their production upstate, buying it in bulk, then storing it,” Chen said. “And we wanted to do a truly local, premium brand.”

Thus the Itizy Ice Cream Truck was churned into existence.

Chen and Yu are based out of Queens and Manhattan. They operate and store their truck in Maspeth, but are part of a shared kitchen across the East River.

Last year was their inaugural run, and they did so well planning it that they won the Queens Economic Development Corp.’s Queens StartUP! Business Plan Competition, which seeks to recognize innovative business minds working in the borough.

Chen and Yu had a mind to stay local, and the ingredients in their sweet concoctions reflect that plan.

The milk and cream are shipped down from a nonprofit collective of upstate farms. Depending on demand, one of the farmers has to sometimes set aside a cow especially for Itizy, Chen said.

Instead of processed chemicals that keep store-bought ice cream congealed, the Itizy team uses eggs.

And, of course, a little ingenuity from Yu comes in every bite.

“Ann has been making recipes for years,” Chen said. “We tweaked and perfected them, and decided to offer them to everyone.”

Chen and Yu started off with common flavors, including vanilla and chocolate, but this year will be venturing into options like milk tea, black sesame and lychee sorbet — international options for an international city. They also serve pastries from other small businesses.

But not every creation makes it out of Yu’s lab. The duo scrapped a rum raisin recipe that actually packed a delicious burst of rum with every bite of fruit — a tasty but not necessarily child-friendly treat.

The truck can be found all over Manhattan, and Itizy has a Twitter feed — @ItizyIceCream — that alerts hungry patrons where they will be next. But they hope to be expanding more into the borough they call home with more truck stops and catering gigs.

“Queens is a little bit of a tougher market for food trucks,” Chen said, citing a relative lack of foot traffic compared to other city locations. “But we have a smaller cart and catering-type setup, and are hoping to be part of artisan food markets in Long Island City or Astoria.”

The characteristic eggshell blue truck is a welcome change from the desk jobs both Yu and Chen used to slog to every morning.

“I always had a dream of owning my own business, and Ann just really loved making ice cream,” he said. “So we put two and two together.”

But foodies aren’t the only people to benefit from the pair’s combined skills. For every five scoops of ice cream they sell, Itizy donates a meal to a hungry child through the World Food Program USA, a nonprofit that works with the United Nations to deliver food to malnourished children in other countries.

And that might make Itizy’s ice cream the most guilt-free scoop in the city.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 11:45 am, April 24, 2013
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