If you spent your childhood on Long Island during those hot and humid summers, you are probably no stranger to an icy confection known as the Italian ice. Readily available from pizza parlors, ice cream trucks and supermarkets, Italian Ices came in a colorful assortment of flavors and provided much needed relief to kids and adults alike.
Also known as granita, sorbetto and water ice, Italian ices have a history that spans centuries. Unlike a sherbet, they contain no dairy products (other than a little egg on occasion) and the hand-scooped variety have a particularly smooth consistency, unlike a sno-cone.
The pre-frozen cups that you would typically buy from the ice cream man or in a grocery store required a bit more work (and a wooden spoon) to eat. But they also had a special surprise at the bottom, an icy layer of frozen syrup that had settled to the bottom.
Once you ate enough of the top part to flip that baby over, there was some good eating to be had underneath. We’re guessing that a few of you out there discovered this on your own.
Typical Italian Ice flavors include lemon, cherry, blue raspberry, orange, watermelon and rainbow. Back in the day, a quarter or two could have you dripping technicolor goo down your forearm in no time. And, while they are still readily available around the island, those that move away soon find that they aren’t so easy to find elsewhere.
One company that is still around (although they have changed hands a few times) is Marino’s. That’s great for the folks on the east coast, but us west coasters remain out of luck when it comes to a good ol’ authentic Italian ice. All we have are memories.
Which reminds me – I’d do just about anything for an old school blue gelato ice from the ice cream man, especially on a hot summer day. That really sounds good.
Do you have fond memories of eating Italian Ices as a kid on Long Island, either the frozen or the softer variety? I’d love to hear all of your memories in our comments section.