Dominick Ranieri Jr. was born and raised in Port Chester and has been in the ice cream truck business for 31 years. Starting out with a small truck he built himself, he proceeded to work over seven years to construct the vehicle he operates now, traveling through the towns of Westchester selling more than just iced pops and soft serve. He’s stocked with warm pretzels, candy, hot dogs, and his latest creation: a churro sundae.
Creating smiles on children’s faces, the ice cream man has been forging personal connections with families since he started working.
“I see customers I’ve had when they were kids who now have their own families, and I sell to their kids,” said Ranieri Jr. “When I see a little blonde girl, her nickname is ‘Goldie Locks.’ When I see a skinny little boy, he’s ‘Muscles.’ A little girl who smiles all the time is named ‘Smiley.’”
Turning down teaching jobs and the opportunity to become a police officer, Ranieri Jr.’s dedication to making children and their families happy is priority, and likes to think the ice cream business has given him a family.
“I don’t have a wife, I don’t have children of my own, so these kids are like my children,” he said. “I watch them grow up, get married and have their own families.”
Ranieri Jr. doesn’t bring smiles just by selling out of his ice cream truck and blasting, “Ring My Bell” down the street. When he’s not giving out sweet treats, he’s singing sweet tunes. That’s right, Ranieri Jr. is a singing ice cream man.
“It all started when I was five,” he said. “I was put in my first play. I’ve been singing ever since.” He also mentions that his grandmother used to sing to him as a child, which sparked his interest.
Ranieri Jr. had vocal training at the Music Conservatory of Westchester and also had some schooling in West Virginia. Most of his training, however, was conducted by a long-time teacher who used to tell him he resembled “good wine out of a rotten barrel,” because he’d be so exhausted coming from work and still produce a glorious sound.
You can find Ranieri Jr. doing gigs for personal clientele, singing at restaurants, or even in a public space while chatting with strangers. He will try to perform anything when asked to.
“One time this guy had me call up his wife and have me sing to her as Lionel Richie. She thought Lionel Richie was calling her for three years,” Ranieri, Jr laughed. “She never knew.”
He does a lot of singing grams as well, delivering person-to-person songs. He’s a romantic guy, singing a bunch of classical music. Some of his favorite singers are Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow. Ranieri Jr. will even sing a couple of Italian songs and has learned a few Latin melodies.