Cool off with light and icy treats from this East Coast import
Reviewed by Kate Thornberry, Fri., Aug. 13, 2010
Mon.-Thu., noon-9pm; Fri.-Sat., 11am-9:30pm; Sun., noon-9pm
Rita's2828½ Guadalupe, 476-7482
Sunday-Thursday, noon-10pm; Friday-Saturday, noon-11pm
After sampling my weight in frozen yogurt for a recent feature (see "Frozen Dreams," June 25), it was a nice change to run into Rita's and enjoy some frozen treats of a very different nature. Italian ice, also known as water ice, is made by quick-freezing a blend of natural fruit, fruit juice, and water into a velvety smooth, silky frozen treat. Lactose-free, cholesterol-free, and fat-free, Italian ices are a wonderful alternative to ice cream. I've found that for some reason, Italian ices are more efficient at cooling you off on a blistering day than any other frozen confection – something about the texture (or maybe the temperature?). Eat one too fast, and you're guaranteed an instant brain freeze. Rita's – the first local franchise of a chain out of the Philadelphia area – serves a rotating selection of fruit- and candy-flavored ices, including watermelon, mango, and lemon, as well as 12 different cream ices, such as cookies 'n' cream, orange cream, and mint chocolate chip.
Rita's also serves the old-fashioned treat frozen custard, the upscale version of soft-serve. Literally made from freezing custard, it contains a much higher percentage of egg yolks than ice cream and is significantly denser. Frozen custard also has far less air whipped into it, which causes it to melt more slowly and gives it a firm, luscious mouthfeel. Elegantly creamy, smooth and rich, it's available in chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, and swirl. It is absolutely decadent, and if you hail from either coast, where frozen custard is a mainstay of childhood, I assure you this is the real thing.
A number of other menu items are available, most of which involve layering or blending Italian ice and frozen custard. The gelati (the layered one) are in fact the most popular menu item. Rita's also makes a coffee-flavored frozen beverage, the Ritaccino, from a blend of Italian ice, frozen custard, and coffee.