In a city overflowing with frozen yogurt shops, a simple ice cream cone can be difficult to track down. CVT Soft Serve, a new food truck launched by USC alumnus Joe Nicchi, brings high-quality soft serve ice cream to Los Angeles.
Nicchi, originally from upstate New York, has fond memories of going out for ice cream as a child. He strives to replicate this special experience for people.
“I quickly learned, as an East Coast transplant here, that soft serve was very hard to find,” Nicchi said.
CVT offers two classic flavors, chocolate and vanilla, that are made using a secret family recipe. Additionally, people who wish to try both options can order a chocolate-vanilla twist.
“My father has been making this ice cream out of the back of his restaurant for the past 30 years,” Nicchi said. “And I told him, ‘We gotta do this. We gotta bring it out here.’”
According to Nicchi, most soft-serve purveyors in Los Angeles use a 5 percent milk-fat blend, which yields a thin and grainy consistency. Unsatisfied with this generic option, Nicchi created a custom mix in partnership with a local dairy.
“The majority of soft serve ice cream on the market is low-fat, which is like a 5 percent mix or a 5 percent butter-fat,” Nicchi said. “Our percentage is significantly higher than that. Instantly, you can taste the difference.”
Nicchi keeps the menu simple in order to showcase his high-quality product. While the ice cream is wonderful on its own, creamy and subtly sweet, customers may crown their cone in chocolate and rainbow sprinkles or sea salt.
The sea salt topping is particularly unique. Using a pepper grinder, Nicchi coats the entire cone in a fine layer of salt. This sea salt powder offsets the ice cream’s richness, creating a pleasant contrast on your tongue.
“You go to any of these self-service yogurt places, and I just watch people dump tons of toppings on these things. They’re covering up something that’s not that good to begin with,” Nicchi said. “What’s the point? If you’re gonna treat yourself, get something that actually tastes good to begin with.”
Though people rave about the ice cream, they are also smitten with the truck itself. Nicchi spent one year searching for the 1961 vintage ice cream truck and an additional two years restoring it.
Affectionately dubbed “Charlie,” the brown and white beauty reflects CVT’s charmingly simple aesthetic.
“I was obsessed with the idea of getting a cool truck,” Nicchi said.
This attention to detail has paid off. After spotting Charlie on the freeway, a groom called Nicchi and booked CVT to serve at his wedding.
“This is L.A., and people like the full package,” Nicchi said. “[This] was very much image-involved.”
Nicchi studied theatre at USC, which helped him build his business with a director’s vision.
“I was trying to create an experience that wasn’t just walking up to a typical lunch truck. It feels like a production in a weird way,” Nicchi said.
Even though CVT opened only a month ago, it has already gained a loyal following.
“I was definitely concerned as a new business owner,” Nicchi said. “You know, since this is a health-conscious town, are people not gonna respond well. And it’s been the complete opposite. We’ve had a ton of repeat business.”
Focusing on top-notch ingredients and outstanding execution, CVT elevates soft serve ice cream into a standout dessert. In a town obsessed with excess, Nicchi’s “back to basics” approach is truly refreshing.
You can follow @CVTSoftServe on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.