HAZLET – With the opening of a gleaming new ice cream shop this afternoon, Hazlet just got a little cooler.
Even though it wasn’t officially announced anywhere, word got around town today that the new Ralph’s Famous Italian Ice & Ice Cream store was open for business on Union Ave, near Middle Road. For a moment around 5 p.m. there was a line four deep at an ordering window and several people were relaxing in the sun with their treats at the outdoor picnic tables.
Since owners Gary and Donna Dorsi began construction of the new building steps away, Hazlet fans have been looking forward to coming in for local faves like sophisticated Spumoni, dreamy Vanilla Chip and indulgent Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup. (Prices $3.25 to $4.25)
“Its bigger, it’s brighter, it’s state of the art. It’s a fresh start,” said manager Michele Porter, who Ralph’s fans will recognize as the familiar face behind the window at Ralph’s former location next door at Baron’s Corner Plaza, where it operated for 17 years. Servers Mackenzie Cogliano and Ryan Basile, both Hazlet residents, are excited to return to work in a place where they get to see people they know, celebrating good times. The staff is hoping for a great summer, especially a dry one, they said, because ice doesn’t sell well when its raining.
Porter was proud to show off the new building with its modern digital menu board, the bright airy interior, painted floor and abundance of space that makes it easier to scoot around scooping flavors. Beneath the sliding glass of the refrigerated cabinets, Ralph’s offers 112 varieties of water ice, cream ice and ice cream, so it helps if you have the room to group the sugar-frees, the cheesecakes and the chocolates for efficiency. Customers are waiting!
Basile was enthusiastic about the new offering this year, Sour Blue, which he said is a raspberry flavor but can sort of taste like lemonade, and cereal shakes ($6). You can have that for breakfast, if you are the kind that wakes up at noon when Ralph’s opens. Yes, looking at you, teenagers.
Nicole Hancheck and Christine DeGennaro, both 13, had walked over from Hazlet Middle School on Union Avenue to get their taste. Both are athletes in training, but they know a good thing when they see it. “I’m going to order a chocolate peanut butter milkshake,” Nicole declared.
Gina Connolly and Patricia Meagher were standing in line for ice cream with their two 7-year old soccer players from the HUSA Elite team. “It’s her first soccer practice and we decided to come here to celebrate, you know to kick it off,” said Connolly. At the old Ralph’s, she would have to take the ice cream back to the car with lots of napkins. “Here, you can sit and relax and talk and exchange about, you know, soccer practice. It’s nice.”
The wrap-around parking lot is one of the best new things about Ralph’s, but it is tight so drive carefully. Note there is room for 14 cars in the lot, with two handicapped spaces in the front. Ralph’s is located at 1729 Union Avenue and is open noon to 11 p.m. daily.