not too late to get in to try one of Rita’s Italian Ice specialties
before the shop closes for the season. (Photo by Larry Bennet)
off with the fresh fruit taste of Rita’s Italian Ice
By Cynthia Schuster-Eakin
Published Sept. 13, 2006
beats the late summer heat like a cold treat. Rita’s, the nation’s
largest Italian Ice chain, recently opened another cool location,
at 30024 Detroit Road in Westlake.
The newest Rita’s is the company’s fifth Ohio location.
Michael and Linda Hotz own and operate the Westlake store. The couple
became fans of Rita’s while living and working as physical therapists
on the East Coast. When they moved to Ohio, they decided to bring
Rita’s with them.
The first Rita’s opened in the summer of 1984 in Bensalem,
Penn. Bob Tumolo, a former Philadelphia firefighter looking to augment
his income, and his mother, Elizabeth, experimented with recipes
for Italian water ice and came up with a concoction that they believed
to be the best Italian Ice they had ever tasted. Apparently, they
were on to something, since there are currently more than 390 stores
in the chain.
Rita’s Italian Ices are made fresh daily and are available
in 34 different flavors, including strawberry, watermelon, blueberry,
root beer, lemon and cherry. Each is made with real fresh fruit
and ice, mixed on site in batches and served within 36 hours. Real
fruit dramatically adds to the taste.
“Everyone gets really excited about our product, once
they taste it,” Linda Hotz said.
She said that they rotate the flavors, with eight different
ices offered daily. They also serve four sugar-free ices. “Italian
Ice is low-fat and low-cholesterol. It’s great for people who can’t
eat dairy, because they can still enjoy a frozen dessert treat,”
Rita’s old-fashioned frozen custard is available in
chocolate or vanilla, and is served in either a cup or cone.
“Our customers say that we have the best custard around,”
Hotz said. Gelati provides frozen dessert lovers with the best of
both worlds, layering Italian Ice and frozen custard. Misto, a blended
version of Italian Ice and creamy custard, is Rita’s version of
the traditional shake. Cream ices are for those who prefer a treat
that is smoother and richer than Italian ice, but not as heavy as
The history of Italian Ice dates back to the days
of ancient Rome when, in summer, emperors dispatched runners to
the highest mountains to retrieve snow. Mixed with summer’s fresh
fruits, the ices made a satisfying frozen treat. For generations,
the Romans, and then all of the Italians, enjoyed the flavored ice.
They ate it alone or mixed it with ice cream to make gelati.
When Italians immigrated to the United States in the
early part of the 20th century, they brought with them their recipes
for flavored ices, which they made from either crushed ice or by
shaving blocks of ice with sharpened blades. Different from sherbets,
Italian Ice has no added cream. It is wetter and fruitier tasting
than sorbet. In the Italian neighborhoods of South Philadelphia,
Italian Ice has long been a summertime passion, served from small
Find out why Italian Ice has been craved by generations.
Stop by the Westlake Rita’s, located in the shopping center by K-Mart,
to try this cool, refreshing treat for yourself. The store is open
from noon to 9 p.m. daily. Phone (440) 617-9860. Rita’s is a seasonal
business, Hotz explained, so the store will be closed during the
winter months. When it reopens after a hiatus from mid-October to
March, Rita’s will treat everyone who visits the store on the first
day of spring to a free water ice, according to Hotz.