Glace, a new Upper East Side ice cream shop, carries on the Zabar family tradition


(New York Jewish Week) — It’s not every day that a new ice cream parlor opens on the Upper East Side — much less a new, “French-inspired” scoop shop opened by the offspring of one the most famous Jewish families in New York’s culinary scene. 

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, Sasha Zabar launched his latest food venture: Glace, an ice cream parlor that boasts some 20 homemade flavors, including Pistachio White Chocolate and PB&J. He’s the grandson of Lillian and Louis Zabar, who founded the eponymous Upper West Side gourmet grocery and appetizing store in 1934, and the son of Eli Zabar, the Upper East Side restaurateur who has 10 different stores and eateries. 

Motivated by the lack of ice cream options in the neighborhood, Sasha Zabar decided to open Glace. (Julia Gergely)

Within minutes of the opening of Glace — the French word for ice cream — a gaggle of high schoolers had already made it their mid-afternoon hangout spot, crowding around bright red outdoor dining tables.

“There’s really nowhere to get ice cream in the neighborhood,” Zabar, 31, told the New York Jewish Week as he scooped cups and cones from behind the counter for the steady trickle of customers. “I grew up here and there used to be a Ciao Bella on 92nd between Madison and Fifth. After that closed in 2010, I’ve always wanted another ice cream store nearby.”

Located at 1266 Madison Ave., Glace occupies the former location of the French gluten-free bakery Noglu, which is also operated by Eli and Sasha. The bakery moved to a larger location just a few doors down at the beginning of 2022. 

And though the scoop shop’s small, bright pink storefront with just a few stools for indoor seating is a new, independent venture, Glace stays true to the space’s gluten-free roots: Noglu’s gluten-free brownies and cookies are incorporated into several flavors, and the housemade waffle cones are also gluten-free. Glace offers homemade soft serve, sorbet, sundaes and milkshakes, and liquid toppings like hot fudge and raspberry sauce. 

The “Eton Mess,” a $12 sundae that includes vanilla ice cream, strawberry sorbet, strawberry jam, whipped cream and toasted almonds. (Julia Gergely)

“I did all the flavors, I designed the store, it’s my vision being executed with a little bit of Noglu and Eli’s influence. But it’s a separate business,” Zabar said when asked how he feels about carrying on the family tradition. “It feels good, but it’s different in many ways. I want it to be its own thing.”

Then again, Zabar’s desire to strike out on his own also has precedent in the family: His father Eli split from the original Upper West Side Zabar’s business in 1973 when he moved across the park to found gourmet food shop E.A.T. Sasha Zabar and his twin, Oliver, have been involved in their father’s food empire for half a decade, and have already launched a few of the brand’s businesses, including Eli’s Night Shift, a craft beer bar on 79th and Third Ave., and Devon, a Lower East Side restaurant and cocktail bar that closed in 2021. 

Zabar noted that many of his 20-some flavors — including Toasted Almond, which is reminiscent of a “gourmet version of Good Humor bar,” Zabar said, and Banoffee, a banana and salted caramel flavor — are inspired by memories from a childhood filled with Jewish celebrations, although he has yet to focus on particularly “Jewish” flavor profiles (like the Chocolate Covered Caramel Matzoh Ice Cream sold at his father’s shop this Passover for $20 a pint). “I am mostly focused on good ingredients and good flavors,” he said. 

On opening day — which Zabar referred to as “an early draft” — Zabar had already identified some changes he wanted to make. The ice cream was harder than he intended (a freezer temperature fix) and he wanted to reorganize the toppings — the jars of almonds, pistachios, sprinkles and honeycomb meringue weren’t as obviously displayed as he wanted them to be.

“There are still some things that may change,” he said, adding that he plans to rotate flavors and toppings weekly, depending on what’s in season and what’s popular. “I just want to get it up and running and we’ll see where it goes.” 

Zabar scoops a mango sorbet for one of the shop’s first customers. (Julia Gergely)

As for Glace’s customers, none seemed to pick up on Zabar’s perceived missteps. Several Upper East Siders out walking their dogs or taking a stroll excitedly popped their heads in to see what was finally filling the space that had been vacant for a year. While many walked in with promises to come back soon, some purchased cones, others ordered scoops and one chic older woman even tried the “Mac-wich,” a scoop of ice cream sandwiched in between two homemade, gluten-free macarons. 

“I have a lot of thoughts,” said Lily, a ninth grader from a nearby high school, who stopped by to try out a mango sorbet in a waffle cone. “I’m scared to go to Noglu because it’s so expensive; I don’t even want to ask for water. I’m glad there is somewhere else to go and I love the flavors.”

(For what it’s worth, a gluten-free croissant at Noglu will set you back $10.50. A small scoop at Glace costs $7 — the cones are an additional $3.)

Her friend Lauren, who is gluten-free, opted for a chocolate cone, telling the New York Jewish Week that Glace’s opening “is really special to me.” 

“I love the aesthetic, the flavors are amazing, I haven’t had a cone in five years because I can never find a gluten-free one,” she said. “It shouldn’t be three extra dollars, but at the same time I’m willing to pay for it. It’s really good.” 

The pair couldn’t talk long — they were rushing to finish their ice cream cones before they melted in the sunshine. Plus, their next class began in three minutes.