The tip jar at CremaLita in Santa Monica reads, "Make Me Fat," which is the opposite of why patrons frequent this new, kosher fat-free ice cream chain in Los Angeles.
The trendy, Manhattan-based company dishes out more than 60 flavors -- including peppermint and espresso -- averaging 60 calories per four-fluid-ounce serving. Its three Los Angeles stores are part of a low-fat craze that has infiltrated the kosher market, with retailers reporting "dramatic" interest in not-so-naughty desserts, such as Colombo Chocolate Sorbet, according to Kosher Today. In Los Angeles, Baskin-Robbins and other franchises offer kosher low-fat fare, although CremaLita is perhaps the only chain in which the stores, as well as the product, are kosher certified, said Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz of the Kosher Information Bureau.
As for why Jeffrey Britz founded CremaLita with his daughter, Allison, in 2001: "We're weight lunatics," he said. The 58-year-old entrepreneur -- who rises at 4 a.m. to exercise most days -- had sold his physical-therapy business when his thoughts turned to ice cream in January 2001. For years, he'd trekked to a soft-serve joint twice a week to pick up quarts of low-fat dessert. As that brand became a staple for chic Manhattan dieters, he analyzed the competition, opened his first store and soon drew a following. The cast and crew of "Sex and the City" bought 100 cones one afternoon; Us magazine ran a cartoon of that show's Kristin Davis enjoying CremaLita; and 2001 Miss USA Kandace Kreuger called the brand her "secret weakness."
But a recent New York Times story suggested the snack might not be entirely guilt free. The article alleged that samples of CremaLita and another brand had more calories than advertised, partly because of oversized servings and insufficient air beaten into the product. The piece referenced that "Seinfeld" episode in which Jerry and Elaine gain weight after pigging out on "diet" fro-yo.
In response, Britz said signs in his stores warn that size matters, but customers don't seem to care.
"If we serve a strict four ounces, they feel cheated," he said.
Besides, a big cup of CremaLita is still more virtuous than Häagen-Dazs: "At least it's a large portion of something that's low calorie and low fat," Allison Britz said.
CremaLita stores are located in Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Sherman Oaks. For addresses and information, visit www.cremalita.com .