Sure, Miami may be an unexpected mecca for ice cream, but what about Italian ice? This smooth, southern European take on the snow cone is what gelato is to American ice cream. Brought to America by Italian immigrants, the many-flavored concoction is also about to get much more accessible in the Magic City.
The Philadelphia-based chain Rita's Italian Ice is reportedly getting ready to expand further into South Florida. Their first new location will open Monday, October 28, in Surfside. Three other shops — in Miami Beach, Hialeah, and Hollywood — are projected to open in early 2020.
Those four locations significantly expand the brand's presence in South Florida, which until now was limited to a single shop in Coral Gables. A grand-opening celebration for the Surfside location is also in the works for later in November, complete with giveaways and other special surprises.
Rita's offers about 40 flavors of Italian ice and frozen custard. They include lemon, mango, strawberry, cherry, and Swedish Fish for ice, and chocolate, vanilla, cookies and cream, pumpkin pie, and cheesecake for custard. Flavors rotate daily, so eight to 12 will be available in-store at any given time, but certain fan favorites will always be available.
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An Italian ice at Rita's costs $3.49 for a kids' size, $4.49 for a regular, $5.49 for a large. Frozen custard costs 50 cents more in each size. Rita's franchises have also offered milkshakes and cookie sandwiches, although it's not yet known if they will be available upon the Surfside opening.
Rita's originated as a single shop in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Former Philly firefighter Bob Tumolo opened the shop, named for his wife, after acquiring a neighbor's recipe for "water ice," as the confection is known to Philadelphians. Tumolo refined the recipe by adding real fruit, and Rita's Water Ice was born in 1984. After opening a second location, they began to franchise the concept in 1989, and since then, the chain has grown to more than 600 locations, including one in Shenzhen, China. All four upcoming South Florida outposts are franchises under local ownership.
If you're in need of some Italian ice a day early, the Surfside location will have a friends-and-family soft opening this Sunday, October 27, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Rita's Italian Ice. 9461 Harding Ave., Surfside; ritasice.com. Daily noon to 10 p.m. beginning Monday, October 28.