Rita’s might be fine in a pinch, but Philadelphia has so many other options when it comes to refreshing, homemade ‘wooder ice.’ If you’re looking for the real deal, here’s where to head for the summer classic. – Chelsea Karnash
Port Richmond’s Aldo’s is owned by a gourmet pastry chef, so the ingredients are top notch. This, undoubtedly, makes for superb water ice—so good it was named the #1 Water Ice in the Country by Dessert Professional Magazine. What’s more, there are so many flavors (grape! coconut!) that you can mix and match to your heart’s delight.
Italiano’s Water Ice
When Italiano’s reopened after a 2013 hiatus, tears of joy were shed throughout the city. That’s because many call South Philly’s Italiano’s the best water ice in Philadelphia…and the country…and the world…and even (you guessed it) the universe. No, seriously. The ice is all made from fresh fruit (there are even seeds in the watermelon!), and the flavor options are seemingly endless. Note: While regulars rave about the piña colada (one even recommends adding your own rum!), more unique options like ginger ale and amaretto are must-taste.
While locals have know about it for years, President Obama’s 2011 stop at John’s for a lemon water ice skyrocketed the South Philly joint to fame. With only four flavors on the menu (as well as one specialty daily flavor, like cantaloupe or banana) and sporadic hours of operation, you know the Italian ice here has to be good to draw such a following. Head over and try it for yourself — just check the website to make sure the shop is open before you do.
Cheap, generous servings and a huge menu. Those are some of the pros of ordering up a water ice at Philly Flavors. Of course, there are cons too, like the close quarters and occasional pushy server, but they will fade into the background once you taste your icy-cold concoction. Plus, with three locations, there’s bound to be one nearby.
Aside from its original Philly location, Pop’s also has two stores in South Jersey and one in Havertown, and that’s a good thing, because the place has many, many fans. Pop’s ices are homemade everyday in small batches—the same way they’ve been doing it since 1932. Bonus: There are chunks of fruit in most flavors…yum!
Rose’s Water Ice
While this brightly-painted corner store in Roxborough might get rave reviews for its breakfast sandwiches, the water ice here is also pretty solid. All the flavors are homemade, and frequent visitors drool over the lemon and vanilla. And after biking, running or – hey, we don’t judge – even walking a couple of the steep hills in this ‘hood, you deserve a reward, right?
Tranzilli’s Real Italian Water Ice
A true establishment in the Germantown section of the city, Tranzilli’s has been in the biz of producing awesome Italian ice since 1969. While they’re expanded to wholesaling, the company still sells its ice – which is made daily on the premises — in the shop. Flavors include the standards (cherry, grape, lemon) as well as more creative creations like mint chocolate chip, kiwi strawberry and cappuccino.
And one to try outside the city…
Okay, so it’s not your traditional water ice, but stumble off the Main Street in Yardley, and you might just be lucky enough to find the Yardley Ice House. The seemingly old-school (it opened in 1994) water ice and ice cream shop offers a plethora of flavors, including their uber-popular Cherry Bordeaux water ice. Other awesome choices include Banana Cream Pie (pureed bananas mixed with custard and cookies), Irish Coffee (frozen Irish coffee with chocolate chips) and Chocolate Hazelnut (self-explanatory). Delish!