Photography by Sean Murray
Now, I’m not from here. (I know. Four words like four nails in the coffin of my credibility.) So when I moved to Philly in the summer of 2011, the way everyone talked about “water ice” intrigued me — like it was some transcendental experience that I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else in the U.S. I pictured mercurial frozen nectar served up glowing in a paper cup.
“Is it like Italian ice?” I’d ask. “Kind of,” the drooling Philadelphian would respond. “Sounds like sorbet,” I’d speculate. “A little bit,” they’d answer.
But it was more special than that, I was assured. Everyone had a memory of a favorite childhood wooder ice stand. No one could identify exactly what made water ice so unique, so very Philly, but the blind devotion was enough to convince me to try it.
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The Passyunk Post is reporting that South Philadelphia water ice institution, Italiano’s is going to return after a year hiatus. The house that sells water ice at 12th and Shunk has been a Philadelphia tradition for 37 years until last year’s sudden closure. That closure was sparked by owner Frankie Italiano’s sudden death. Italiano’s sister Nancy kept the storefront closed out of respect for her brother but this year, it appears Italiano’s will in fact open.
After taking a hiatus last year, Italiano’s Water Ice at 12th and Shunk is reopening [Passyunk Post]
Sister Cities Park |Photo via Center City District
Rita’s Italian Ices are now available at Sister Cities Park (18th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway) and John F. Collins Park (1707 Chestnut Street). Cool off while enjoying the Sister Cities boat pond or while relaxing in the shade on Chestnut Street. Both stands are open daily from noon to 7 pm.
Rita’s Italian Ices [Official]
Let’s get this out of the way first: It’s wooder ice.
No matter what Rita’s brands it — Italian ice, with an “Ice, Custard, Happiness” slogan — it’s called water ice, and it’s pronounced wooder. That’s the point a representative for Bucks County State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo made at Tuesday’s celebration of Rita’s 30th anniversary: It may be Italian ice around the country and world, but in Bensalem, Pennsylvania — where the Philly accents are even thicker than they are in the city — it’s “wooder ice.”
Rita’s was founded on May 4, 1984, a wonderful time before anyone made “May the 4th be with you” jokes. It started in the Andalusia section of Bensalem on the side of a house on Bristol Pike (Route 13), right across from the Woodhaven Mall. The mall is now a shopping center; Rita’s now has over 600 locations.
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