SEASIDE SPOTLIGHT: Our latest profile in a series focused on the behind-the-scenes movers who make Seaside the unique destination it is today. Next. Previously.
No beach town is complete without an ice cream stand. There’s just something about a cool, creamy ice cream-topped cone that makes the sand and surf feel even more like a getaway, whether rain or shine.
In Seaside one award-winning business — in fact, voted best ice cream shop in Oregon by Travel + Leisure magazine a few years ago — earns raves every year for its velvety frozen concoctions. What’s the secret to Sea Star Gelato’s success?
“The base,” says Douglass Lintow, the gelateria’s co-owner. He’s referring to the shop’s homemade gelato base that makes all the difference between a stellar and a so-so scoop. It helps create the low-fat but smooth, dense mouthfeel of this Italian-born dessert.
And Douglass and his wife, co-owner Tanya Lintow, know their ice cream. While Douglass has family roots in Seaside, both he and Tanya grew up in the Seattle area. Frequent visitors to Seaside for years, they dreamed of retiring there when the time was right.
When Sea Star Gelato came up for sale in 2018, they jumped at the chance. Tanya had been in the restaurant business for almost 30 years, while Douglass brought his customer service experience and entrepreneurial spirit. Visiting Seaside on Tanya’s birthday, they were approached by the gelateria’s owner and bought the shop a month later.
“We always wanted to do ice cream, and this was the perfect opportunity for us,” Douglass says.
Tanya admits that they’re likely working harder now than before retirement, working more-than-12-hour days to bring gelato to the people. In the grand scheme of things, popularity is a good problem to have.
Gelato vs. Ice Cream
The gelateria has made its name on a periodically changing roster of roughly 270 scrumptious flavors — 32 of which rotate in the display cases at any given time. Gelato is kept 10 to 12 degrees warmer than ice cream, so your mouth isn’t freezing or coated in butterfat, which allows the natural flavors to shine through. People are often surprised to find out that despite the rich mouthfeel and flavor, gelato is roughly four times lower in fat than custard-based ice cream.
While many ice cream shops use a premade mix, Sea Star uses the same preservative-free base recipe as the previous owners did; they pasteurize it in-house. The Lintows also make as many ingredients from scratch as they can — think pillowy marshmallows, buttery caramel sauce and thick hot fudge.
Beyond Basic Vanilla
The top-selling flavors wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone — the classics French vanilla, Dutch chocolate and strawberry, as well as espresso — while customers who are already familiar with gelato often gravitate toward the traditional Italian flavors like pistachio, stracciatella and hazelnut. Dairy-free flavors delight those who avoid milk, too.
Proud to be a part of the sustainability-focused North Coast Food Trail, the gelateria sources some fruit flavors from a local berry farm that grows all manner of caneberries. These include popular raspberries and boysenberries, as well as lesser-known fruit like the tayberry, which has a short season that only lasts for about three weeks in June. “People who try tayberries fall in love with them,” Douglass says, describing the taste as a mix between raspberries and blackberries.
Sea Star also serves creative combinations like spaghettieis — French vanilla gelato “noodles” topped with strawberry or raspberry sauce and grated white-chocolate or coconut “cheese” — and gelato panini. A take on brioche con gelato, an Italian ice cream sandwich with sweet buns as the “bread,” the sandwiches are slathered in sauces like choco crunch or lemon cookie. They source their sweet buns from Dundee’s Donuts, a Seaside bakery that makes an unglazed Bismarck especially for the gelateria. The Bismarck gets stuffed with gelato, toasted and drizzled with a selection of fruit or chocolate sauces.
The Wisdom of the People
Don’t be surprised if you see lines out the door as you walk down Columbia Street — even in the off-season — since Sea Star Gelato has become a crowd-pleaser. Their popularity has allowed the business to celebrate its fifth anniversary in 2023. All that creativity needs an outlet, and the Lintows are getting to the point where they’re thinking of expanding. They’re thinking that Cannon Beach is a logical choice for a second location, with Seaside remaining as the original location that started it all, of course.
The owners also take customer suggestions seriously. In fact, the milkshake with a shot of espresso was added to the menu after patrons asked for an extra caffeine buzz. And this summer the gelateria will be rolling out banana boats — banana splits served in a boat-shaped vessel. “People asked for it,” Douglass says, happy to oblige.