Frozen custard and Italian ice might not be the first foods that come to mind on Valentine’s Day, but this Feb. 14 such treats drew crowds of Upper West Siders to the opening of the first New York City location of Rita’s Italian Ice.
To introduce New Yorkers to Rita’s unique take on frozen desserts, the new store, on Broadway between 92nd and 93rd streets, distributed regular-sized ice in any flavor for free during its first week of business.
A Philadelphia-based chain whose tag line is “Ice Custard Happiness,” Rita’s offers specialty Italian ice, frozen custard and any imaginable combination of the two. Unlike traditional Italian ice, Rita’s is made fresh on the premises every day. Company policy requires ice to be thrown out if not sold after 36 hours.
Rita’s ice owes its soft consistency to freezers set at warmer temperatures, according to the Upper West Side Rita’s owner Noah Teitelbaum. While customers can find traditional flavors like lemon and cherry, less conventional options include “Swedish fish,” which was developed by Rita’s. Other novelty flavors include “cadbury” and “birthday cake,” which Rita’s calls “cream ice.”
For students familiar with Rita’s from other franchises across the country, Rita’s unique custard is a true comfort food. More airy than frozen yogurt, and creamier than ice cream, frozen custard has a unique appeal. Generous portions and the custard’s extreme richness make Rita’s satisfying.
Still, Rita’s is not the next Pinkberry or Tasti D-Lite—although franchises now exist in 19 states, each store is locally owned and seeks to maintain a presence in the community. Teitelbaum explains that he and his brother Josh chose to go into business with Rita’s because they wanted to run a kid-friendly business involved with charity work. He looks forward to implementing Rita’s Celebrity Scoop program that allows local ”celebrities”—elementary school principals or perhaps Columbia professors—to scoop ice and custard for around an hour, with proceeds donated to a neighborhood organization or charity. While students might be unimpressed at the idea of their professors being called “celebrities”, the custard and Italian ice can still satisfy any critical Columbian.