Rita's Italian Ice
Rita’s Italian Ice is Toronto’s destination for soft serve custard and Italian ice in a boatload of flavours. The chain has origins in Philadelphia, and this is the first location in Toronto (other Ontario locations include Hamilton and Niagara).
The original “water ice” (or “wooder ice” with the proper Northeastern accent) that started it all was sold from a porch, and the chain is named after the original purveyor’s wife. It’s since grown to include hundreds of stores all over the States, and now Canada gets a taste. Fortunately, the ice is still made fresh every day.
The interior of the store is your typical average ice cream shop, not much seating or furniture at all save for a couple ledges, but of course this is a primarily grab and go treat. A chest freezer houses hard ice cream tubs, and soft serve and ice machines whirl away behind the counter.
A regular cone of frozen custard goes for $4.25, and we opt for a creamy twist of egg-based custard. The egg makes the soft serve richer and fuller tasting. It's also texturally thicker — less airy than your average ice cream truck whipped oil.
You can also get milkshakes ($6.50) made with the custard, and though I tried the super tasty but basic chocolate, you can choose from flavours like peanut butter, strawberry shortcake, or black & white, or those with Heath bars incorporated.
All shakes come topped with the quintessential pile of whipped cream and maraschino cherry.
Beyond the basic offerings are Rita’s creations like “mistos,” “blendinis,” and “gelati.”
A misto shake ($4.50) blends Italian ice with custard for a slightly lighter and more refreshing shake with a fruity flavour, like this pineapple, which is actually one of the flavours made with real fruit.
Gelati ($4.75) sandwiches a layer of Italian ice between two layers of custard.
Vanilla custard is probably the way to go though I suppose you could do whatever you want, and the green apple Italian ice we choose brings a unique tartness to this slushy frozen treat.
The best thing about Italian ice is that all 65 flavours are sugar free. Even better, you can take home pints of their Italian ice and hand scooped custard.
This treat from America is here to save our waistlines and our wallets. It might just spread across Canada just as quickly as it did the States.