This article's lead section contains information that is not included elsewhere in the article. (May 2023)
|Place of origin||Italy|
|Main ingredients||Water, fruit (concentrate, juice or purée)|
Italian ice is a frozen or semi-frozen sweetened treat made with finely granulated ice and fruit (often from concentrates, juices, or purées) or other natural or artificial food flavorings. Italian ice is similar to sorbet and snow cones, but differs from American-style sherbet in that it does not contain dairy or egg ingredients. It was introduced to the United States by Italian immigrants and is derived from the Sicilian granita, a similar and related Italian dessert. Common flavors include lemon, cherry, mango, cotton candy and other fruits and confections.
Finely granulated flavored ice of Italian immigrant origin is instead commonly referred to and sold as water ice by residents and natives of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia metropolitan area (Delaware Valley), including South Jersey and areas of Delaware. Water ice is almost identical to Italian ice, as it is similarly derived from granita brought to the Philadelphia area by Italian immigrants in early 20th century. Though largely synonymous with Italian ice, this “water ice” has also been described as a specific type of Italian ice originating in Philadelphia, or a "variation on the more broadly-accepted Italian ice." Water ice is generally sold in Philadelphia and the Philly area in the late spring and summer months, being one of the most popular iconic frozen desserts sold in the city by virtue of commercial chains such as Rita's Italian Ice.
Italian ice has a long history which can be found first 4000 years ago. The Greeks and Romans used snow from Mount Etna to cool their wines. The Italian word sorbetto and English sherbet come from these sweet fruit syrups that the Arabs used to drink, diluted with ice tiles. For thousands of years, people have kept ice cubes to satisfy their cravings for cold drinks. Today's snow cones may have originated from ice cubes that formed long ago, forming real snow mixed with honey and fruit. In Europe, italian ice seems to have appeared at the same time as ice cream in the second half of the 17th century. Both products use the same technology. Italian ice can be used as a stand-alone refreshment, dessert, or as a means of restoring the palate midway through a meal of many courses.
Except when made from fruit or fruit juice, Italian ice is defined in US law as a food of minimal nutritional value.
- Granita, a Sicilian preparation made of partially frozen water, flavorings, and sometimes sugar
- Shaved ice, a class of related but distinct desserts
- Slushy, a frozen drink made from flavored ice, similar to granitas
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