Just One Scoop: Sour Cream and Blueberry Ice Cream at Cuzzy’s
The story behind Cuzzy Angiolilo's trick to getting the most flavor out of his blueberry ice cream, and why it's worth the brain freeze.
Welcome to Just One Dish, a Foobooz series that looks at an outstanding item on a Philly restaurant’s menu — the story behind the dish, how it’s made, and why you should be going out of your way to try it.
Cuzzy’s Ice Cream shop opened in November of last year and quickly became the newest obsession of ice cream lovers across the city. I have at least two friends who say it’s the best ice cream they’ve ever had, and another who can’t walk out of the shop without ordering two individual single-scoop cones all for herself. It’s an impulse I can understand: In a time when it feels like every new restaurant is selling limited-edition merch, selling branded candles, and generally chasing the hype machine, the fact that Cuzzy’s is simply an excellent ice-cream shop feels somehow special.
That’s all by design. Owner and ice cream maker Cuzzy Angiolilo grew up in South Philly, eating fresh mozzarella-topped hoagies from Mancuso’s and hanging out at his mom’s salon. His shop is designed in the grand tradition of these Philadelphia neighborhood spots.
“I just want to make ice cream for the neighborhood,” Angiolilo said when I called him to discuss a scoop of sour cream ice cream with blueberry compote and crunchy brown sugar streusel that I ate on my most recent visit. At any given time, Cuzzy’s freezer holds no more than eight flavors, all of which are made from scratch weekly in the basement of the shop. There’s usually chocolate and vanilla, plus a handful more flavors like their cult-favorite brown butter pecan (a worthy twist on the classic) or a coffee flavor made with single-origin beans curated by Old City’s Thank You Thank You.
On any ice cream maker’s journey, the first decision to be made is about the base of the ice cream. Cuzzy’s uses a milk base, which he prefers to an egg-based custard.
“It’s a combination of milk, nonfat milk and heavy cream, plus a couple of stabilizers,” Angiolilo says. “Anything with egg really makes my stomach hurt, and I don’t think you get as big of a punch of flavor.” Like gelato, which has a lower butterfat content than many American ice creams, Cuzzy’s base is clean, meant to carry flavors that are generally slightly amped up versions of classics. Angiolilo says the sour cream flavor I loved so much came from two separate ideas.
“We wanted to make blueberry ice cream,” he says. “But everything we were doing, the blueberries just didn’t taste like anything. Then I read that if you freeze blueberries, it preserves their flavor, so what we ended up with was that we freeze the berries, then we make a compote.” They ended up swirling that compote through a sour cream base, which came from a desire to do a cheesecake flavor. Rather than use cream cheese, which doesn’t have enough tang, Angiolilo decided to lean on sour cream.
“We went through all of these different sour creams,” he said. “You’re going to laugh, but a dollop of Daisy is the secret.” The flavor, he explains, is very neutral, allowing the berries to sing. For the base, they replace the usual heavy cream with sour cream, which freezes into a creamy texture. The zing of acidity elevates the blueberries, and clears your palate as you eat. The final addition, a crumb-cake streusel, is evocative of a muffin or pie, and creates a little textural variation as you eat. Like so many delicious things, it’s at once familiar and surprising, the perfect summer scoop for a walk through the neighborhood.