“Whipped cream, nuts and a cherry with your sundae?”
“Cup or cone?”
“Regular or extra thick frappe?”
These questions become second nature when you work at an ice cream shop. Ice cream scooping is an art taken very seriously in Cape Cod, where small businesses form the backbone of its economy. Thousands of people visit Cape Cod every summer to enjoy ice cream from its family-owned, homemade ice cream shops.
Ice cream scooping jobs are highly sought after on the Cape, and luckily for me, the opportunity walked through my front door—literally. Three years ago my parents decided to sell bunk beds on Ebay after realizing my brothers’ legs hung off the ends. Fortunately for me, the bunk bed buyers were Paul and Carter Catalano, the owners of Ice Cream Smuggler. Despite the large pile of applications Ice Cream Smuggler receives each year, that day I became an official ice cream scooper.
The Ice Cream Smuggler is a beloved ice cream shop located on the scenic 6A highway in Dennis Village and is currently open for its 32nd season. Unlike any previous seasons, however, the Ice Cream Smuggler will be featured on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate on July 22 at 10:30 p.m. EST.
The producers from The Best Thing I Ever Ate emailed the ice cream shop multiple times over the winter, but since it is a seasonal business, the emails went unseen. Finally the Catalano’s saw the emails and before they knew it, the production crew was filming in March, months before the shop was due to open.
The experience of making the ice cream shop appear to be open, with 32 flavors of ice cream to offer, in the middle of New England’s winter, was chaotic to say the least, but the Catalano’s are grateful for the recognition.
Why was the Ice Cream Smuggler chosen among all over ice cream shops on the Cape? Food Network star Ming Tsai tried Smuggler’s classic ice cream sundae—vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, nuts, whipped cream and a cherry on top—last summer and instantly fell in love.
All 32 flavors of ice cream are hand-made daily in the back room of the Ice Cream Smuggler from the highest quality ingredients.
“This is all we do, so we do it great,” says Carter Catalano, owner of The Smuggler. And this is nothing short of true—the Ice Cream Smuggler only serves ice cream treats. Hot dogs, clam chowder and soft-serve would just get in the way of the classic ice cream that customers from all over come to taste.
Smuggler’s is known for amazing signature flavors such as French raspberry truffle, coffee Oreo yogurt (96% fat free), Junior Nint, and even cookie monster. And though the flavors may seem endless at Smuggler, be sure you don’t ask for sprinkles—shredded pieces of wax apparently don’t make the cut on Smuggler’s prized ice cream.
And while most kids stay away from the rum-flavored treats and the older clientele shies away from excessive cookie dough, some customers prove more daring than expected. I have indeed witnessed a grown man yell with joy at the sight of cookie monster ice cream.
But Smuggler’s offers more than just great ice cream—it is an institution, a community staple where customers, both regular and foreign, come en masse every summertime night.
“We can count on not even being able to see the windows of the store most nights of the summer,” says Carter, as she frosts and decorates two of her ice cream cakes. “One night the line was so long that we yelled to the last person in line to grab us more bananas at the local general store down the street.”
The staff may be busy, but they make sure to keep up with their clientele. “We know customers not by name but by flavor,” says Carter. We do not go through a night without seeing ‘Ice Cream Soda Lady,’ ‘Quart Boy,’ ‘Vanilla frappe guy,’ and a variety of other local characters.
“I love seeing people around town or even walking their dogs—I always think to myself, ‘Hey, I know your ice cream order!’” says employee Iso Hemmers.
Regular customer James Kaplan, otherwise known as ‘Quart Boy,’ purchases a quart of coffee Oreo frozen yogurt almost every single day. He asks for a spoon on the side and eats the entire quart in one sitting.
“I came everyday last summer—I never missed a day,” says Kaplan. “The ice cream is the best on the Cape. I started out getting a sampler cup 4 years ago, and eventually it turned into a quart.”
Kaplan and other regular customers contribute to the community feel at The Smuggler. Frequent customers include Cape baseball players, New England Patriots, SNL cast members and even the occasional TV star.
“We have a cool and breezy policy with celebrities because everyone should be able to enjoy an ice cream cone in peace,” says Carter. While it is exciting when celebrities enter the store, there are not many places in the world where you are occasionally tipped in Cape Cod potato chips.
“It’s nice to know that some things never change when I come back each summer to the Smuggler,” says employee Corrine Clifford. “But then again we are working with the American public so there are some things you can just never count for.”
After I overcame the initial wrist pain and finally mastered scooping a double cone of ice cream in a flash, I came to love Ice Cream Smuggler as a home away from home. The Catalano’s have created a family-friendly atmosphere that truly epitomizes Americana. Tune into the Food Network on July 22 at 10:30 p.m. EST to see The Smuggler for yourself!
*Photography by Hilary Burns