Rita’s Comes to NYC
When I say the words “water ice” outside the city limits of Philadelphia, people look at me like I’m some backwards hick who just crawled out of the Schuylkill River. Better known as “wooder ice” to Philly residents, and Italian ice to the rest of the civilized world, this simple summer treat is making its way to New York via the glorious chain of my childhood, Rita’s Italian Ice.
Like most Philly culinary traditions, water ice always taste better when you’re drunk. It’s no mistake the food itself resembles a tropical cocktail. There have been many parking lot memories thanks to Rita’s and a pilfered bottle of Rum. Ed note: the mint chocolate chip flavor will ruin your night. Besides getting me through every summer, it’s created a kind of Pavlovian effect where my mouth will salivate every time I see a red and white striped awning. It’s bad enough that a 7-Eleven just opened by my work, now I have to be tempted by Italian Ice and slurpees. My brain freeze will probably last well past Spring. God help me if a Dippin Dots opens up, I’ll need to find a sponsor at that point.
Rita’s settled into their new location this weekend on the Upper West Side. They probably knew better than to set up shop in Brooklyn, where they’d have to compete with Uncle Louie G and all the Mom and Pop Italian joints, who would rather break your legs than let you carve out a piece of the cutthroat Italian ice business. (I’m really resisting some ice out puns here) Although, does Uncle Louie serve “Blendinis”, “Slenderita’s”, or “Ritachinos?” I think not. Obviously they’ve made some changes to their menu to keep up with the Starbucks of the world. They even make a Swedish Fish flavor for Christ’s sake. Their new options both intrigue and terrify me. But think of all the delightful name opportunities. You could suck down a Ritatini, or Blendjito, well, you get the idea. So if you find yourself in the neighborhood, grab an ice, bring a flask, and mosey on down to Central Park for a most interesting afternoon.
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Rita’s Italian Ice
Between W 92nd & W 93rd [Upper West Side]