Pursuing the perfect chocolate chip; Ice cream dessert corners the streets of New York
The Chipwich. "It's the street dessert of the year," according to Mimi Sheraton of the New York Times. And "the hottest item in New York this summer," in the opinion of the Daily News. The Chipwich has chocolate or vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies, the edge of which is covered by chocolate chips. It costs a dollar and has become a noontime staple for many New Yorkers.Skip to next paragraph
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Richard LaMotta, founder and inventor of the Chipwich and now chairman of the board, was a self-confessed "dunker" (of cookies in milk), obsessed with finding the perfect combination of chocolate chip cookies and ice cream. As he quickly discovered, it was not an easy job, as there are problems of melting ice cream, soggy cookies cyrstallization, and maintaining its freshness overnight. His search for the finest cookies, ice cream, and chips was to last 5 1/2 years.
Not that Mr. LaMotta needed to keep busy. He was an engineer for the early morning programs at CBS, was pursuing a law practice, and was a partner in an ice cream parlor in New Jersey. That parlor was to become his laboratory.
When the then unnamed product made its debut there, Mr. LaMotta held a contest for its name. Six thousand children entered it, and two came up with the name Chipwich. The name stuck and was trademarked here and in 42 other countries.
The Chipwick took over 25 percent of the store's inventory. But the store could not live on Chipwiches alone and soon closed, leaving Mr. LaMotta with a tasty product but no one to eat it.
Mr. LaMotta then entered into an undisclosed contract with Quaker Oats, which producer Burry's cookies. The test marketing lasted two years and resulted in an offer to buy the product for almost a million dollars. Richard LaMotta said no. "I looked at it and said, it's not like writing a book which you can sell-cheap and then you write another. I'll never dream up another food product. It was my fantasy, so I'll see what I can do if I raise some money."
The Chipwich attack on New York City was carefully planned. Friends said it was the last place you should bring a new food item. But the LaMotta theory was that New York would indeed be the ultimate challenge and test, and -- he hoped -- the ultimate success.
"You know," Mr. LaMotta says, "If you have a new item you'll get a New Yorker one time. I'm a New Yorker and you'll get me once. If it's garbage, I'm not coming back. So I just put myself in the position of a buyer of my product. I'll make it pleasant, clean, and I'll get them the first time. It's a chic, sophisticated audience. You can't pull the wool over a New Yorker's eyes."
So Mr. LaMotta went for a classy look in a verding cart -- a cart that was "very different from anybody else's. The street debut of the Chipwich -- shinny carts, uniforms -- was costly but worth it.
The San Gennaro Street festival in September 1980 was a "monster success." Although the festival attracted a typical pastry-eating crowd, four vendors sold 16,000 pieces in 10 days. At the Third Avenue festival two carts sold 1,000 in one hour. At the Kentucky Derby, it was 20,000 pieces in four hours.
After the May 1 debut, "we became a soldout hit on the streets. We would sell out by 1 or 2 o'clock. Sold everything I could make in 24 hours."