Long Island, NY, is home to numerous major tourist attractions including the Montauk Point Lighthouse, Long Island Sound, the chic Hamptons, Nassau Coliseum, Jones Beach and some of the finest vineyards in the northeast. But located in the quaint Nassau County metropolis of Bellmore is a cozy eatery that houses one of the biggest selections of freshly made gelato in the state of New York. With over 80 flavors of nut-based, cream and fruit flavors, as well as decadent pastries baked in-house and superior customer service that’s almost impossible to forget about – or in New York dialect, “fuhgeddabout” – International Delight Café (IDC) has proven to be a culinary Island treasure that young, old and international visitors have most certainly been delighted by. Owner Antonia Lee takes us behind the scenes of IDC for a more in-depth perspective of how they continue to dazzle loyal customers and intrigued visitors with dining experiences that are no less than stellar.
Janae Morris (JM): When people visit International Delight Café, what kind of menu offerings can they expect?
Antonia Lee (AL): We make 84 flavors of gelato and sorbetto.We make pastries in-house and menu items like Around the World.
JM: Explain innovative selections like Around the World and tell us how you come up with fun ideas like that?
AL: Our Around the World is a large bowl filled with 21⁄2 gallons of ice cream, waffles, toppings and whipped cream. My dad owned an ice cream parlor and had a concept called the Kitchen Sink. So we took it and made a few changes and renamed it Around the World. It’s been featured on Man vs. Food. People come from near and far to try to finish one and not one person has finished.
JM: How long has International Delight Café been in business?
AL: 30 years
JM: Is the Bellmore, Long Island, NY, location
the only International Delight Café under your direction?
AL:We have the Bellmore and Rockville Centre locations, and we’re looking for more. We are looking at areas in Myrtle Beach right now, and out east in the Hamptons. A new location would need to be in a fairly residential, friendly area that caters to everybody. The city (Manhattan) would be perfect, but it needs to be cost-efficient as well.
JM: What was the inspiration behind opening
AL: 30 years ago there was nothing like this.I am a very picky eater and I got tired of going to places that did not have what I wanted or told me I could not have. So I wanted to open something that catered to picky eaters like me, and I also love chocolate so I have amazing chocolate flavors like Dark Chocolate Sorbetti, Dolomite and Mudd.
JM: What’s your most popular flavor/dish?
AL: Everything. From the one scoop going all the way up to the World. Our one scoop is pretty big!
JM: What’s the most interesting or rewarding event you’ve hosted/supported?
AL: The most rewarding event is people coming in for the first time, when they feel a little overwhelmed and we are able to make them feel comfortable.
JM: Do you feel more inclined to start new flavor trends, follow flavor trends or just
have fun creatively?
AL: We start trends.We make flavors like Dirty Snow and Sunset which has orange, raspberry and vanilla ice cream. It looks like a sunset and tastes … like a sunset.
JM: What makes International Delight Café
different from other frozen dessert destinations
on Long Island?
AL: The flavors that we have. How many flavors we have, and the quality.
JM: Do you offer custom flavors?
AL: Yes.Avocado is the probably the weirdest request we’ve had. And we make sweet potato.
JM: Judging by the imagery on your Facebook page, your serving style is like irresistible abstract art with sauces and toppings blending, spilling over and splattered about.Tell us about your appealing signature style in an industry dominated by “neat” presentations.
AL: Each person that works behind the counter puts their unique flair on their creation. Everyone has their own flair to make it eye appealing. Sometimes it gets to the point where’s there’s a competition of who can do it better. It’s about individual expression.
JM: International Delight Café definitely serves portion sizes worth the buck.What’s your advice/suggestion to those concerned with portion control?
AL: Don’t eat.Wait to come in hungry and enjoy!
JM: You have several Facebook posts of visitors
from Italy to International Delight Café .What’s the best feedback you’ve ever received from international visitors regarding the taste and authenticity of your gelato?
AL: That our gelato is better than the gelato from places that they’ve visited in Italy.
JM: With over 80 flavors of gelato and fresh pastries baked in-house, how hectic is a typical day at International Delight Café?
AL: Very hectic from the minute we come in. Lines are out the door, phones ring off the hook. We also take food allergies like celiac disease into consideration.We haven’t had to make a fresh batch of gelato or ice cream specifically for a customer with a food allergy, but if we had to we would. We believe everyone should be able to go out and enjoy themselves.
JM: In your own words, tell us what makes International Delight Café so delightful?
AL: Our customers. We have great customers. Our customers make us happy, so we make our customers happy.