HOLY COW ICE CREAM CAFÉ owner and Lynnfield native Mike Schifino proudly displays the trophy the company received after winning the North American Ice Cream Association’s Flavor of the Year Contest during a convention held in Fort Worth, Texas. (Courtesy Photo)
By DAN TOMASELLO
GLOUCESTER — A Lynnfield native’s ice cream company recently received several awards from a national organization.
Holy Cow Ice Cream Café owner Mike Schifino was honored this past fall when the North American Ice Cream Association named the Gloucester-based company’s Ritzy AF ice cream as its “Flavor of the Year” during a convention held in Fort Worth, Texas.
“It’s a salted butter cracker ice cream that’s loaded up with house-made Ritz Cracker toffee bark,” said Schifino. “The
‘Flavor of the Year’ was decided by popular vote from the hundreds of attendees at the convention.”
Schifino said Holy Cow Ice Cream Café also won a third place award for the company’s lemon bar ice cream called Eazy Peazy.
“It’s pretty cool considering there were hundreds of submissions from some of the best ice cream businesses in the country,” said Schifino. “In a different category, we took home a Blue Ribbon for our chocolate ice cream, and Red Ribbons for our strawberry and vanilla ice creams.”
Schifino said Cornell University food scientists served as the contest’s judges.
“They were scored on a variety of factors ranging from flavor, body, mouthfeel and color,” said Schifino.
Schifino was blown away that the North American Ice Cream Association recognized Holy Cow Ice Cream Café.
“It’s hard to believe, especially considering this was the largest number of entries this contest has ever had,” said Schifino. “It’s been a very fun and busy last few weeks for the entire staff as we continue to ramp up production to keep up with the demand despite the weather not being ideal to sell ice cream. I have a great team who are all very dedicated to the success of the business as well as a passion for seeing positive feedback on the product from our customers. This is a big win for not only myself and my family, but also my dedicated team.”
Schifino said Holy Cow Ice Cream Café’s origins date back to 2014.
“I never intended on this being the vision when I started Holy Cow,” said Schifino. “I bought a condemned multi-family investment property in Gloucester back in 2014 with intentions to renovate it into apartments, but pivoted in a different direction once I learned of an old ice cream shop being in that location that had been closed since the 1990s. When we started construction, there seemed to be a buzz that Holy Cow was coming back, so I did a little research and learned that the business name was still available to use. Once I got the previous owner’s blessing, I decided to rebrand and open my version of Holy Cow.”
Schifino started serving Richardson’s Ice Cream when he first opened Holy Cow because he had “no intentions of making ice cream.”
“It got to the point where I began growing a passion for ice cream,” said Schifino. “After I did some research, I bought a small batch freezer to make ice cream. When we first started making ice cream in 2019, I would make specials that we integrated into the menu, but we only did a few at a time. Once the specials started becoming our biggest sellers and business continued to pick up, we were finally able to put together an entire menu of Holy Cow homemade original flavors.”
While Schifino said he had “no chef training,” he said his philosophy with Holy Cow Ice Cream Café was that the company was “going to be different than all the other ice cream shops.”
“The majority of our ice creams have house-made cookies and a variety of other mix-ins,” said Schifino.
Schifino said Holy Cow Ice Cream Café has frequently collaborated with other businesses to “make special limited flavors.”
“We often donate 100 percent of the proceeds,” said Schifino. “We have raised quite a bit of money for charity since our inception. Some of the notable businesses we’ve worked with on ice cream collaborations with are Bova’s Bakery, Flip The Bird, Crack’d, Union Square Donuts Bakery & Coffee Shop, Downeast Cider, Bully Boy Distillers, Old Planters Brewing Co., Great Marsh Brewing Company, Crave, Café Sicilia, Cake Ann and Castaways.”
In the wake of Holy Cow growing in popularity, Schifino opened a Peabody location in the spring of 2021. He also brought Holy Cow Ice Cream Café to Salem Willows in the spring of 2022.
“It was time that we expanded so we could increase our production,” said Schifino.
Schifino said his parents inspired him to get into the ice cream business.
“My father, Michael, was in the food establishment business and owned several restaurants when I was growing up, including ‘Michael’s Seaside’ on Revere Beach,” said Schifino. “I always loved being a little kid hopping behind the bar to spin up Shirley Temples and hang around the kitchen. Between him and my mother Nanci, who always had a pan of brownies or some sort of sweets lined up for us, it’s no surprise that this is now my career.”
Schifino moved to Lynnfield with his family when he was 3-years-old. He enjoyed growing up in town.
“I am a proud Huckleberry Hill alumni, and graduated from Lynnfield High School in 2005,” said Schifino. “I ran cross- country, and played hockey and lacrosse.”