Rita’s Water Ice—A Treat from the East

Rita’s Redondo Beach serves up heat-quenching Italian ice and frozen custard

During the summer in Philadelphia, it’s hard to ignore the small wooden huts serving up swirled cones of snow-white custard and heaping cups of cherry red ice. Known as water ice to some, and Italian ice to others, the most well-known purveyor of these East Coast treats is Rita’s, a company started by a Philadelphia firefighter in the 1980s whose outposts are marked by green and white striped signs. 

Rita’s Italian Ice has been imported to the South Bay by way of two local military veterans, and if you stop in their store along PCH in Redondo Beach, you’re bound to find a line of fans pondering which flavor of water ice (mango? chocolate mint? cotton candy?) to try. A safe bet, particularly for newcomers, to the water ice and custard world, is galati—your choice of ice topped with a dab of creamy custard.

Photography by Paul Jonason

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