Italian ice
Lime Italian Ice (Brooklyn, NY).jpg
Lime-flavoured Italian ice in a paper cup, served in Brooklyn, New York
Place of originItaly
Main ingredientsWater, fruit (concentrate, juice or purée)

Italian ice is a frozen or semi-frozen sweetened treat made with fruit (often from concentrates, juices, or purées) or other natural or artificial food flavorings.[1][2] 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.[1] It was introduced to the United States by Italian immigrants and is derived from the Sicilian granita, a similar and related Italian dessert.[3] Common flavors include lemon, cherry, mango, cotton candy and other fruits and sweet victuals.[4]

A cup of water ice
A cup of water ice

Finely granulated flavored ice is 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.[5] 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."[6] 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.[7]


Italian water 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.[8] 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.[9] In Europe, water 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. Water 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.[10]


Except when made from fruit or fruit juice, Italian ice is defined in US law as a food of minimal nutritional value.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b U.S. Food and Drug Administration, CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. Accessed 9 June 2011.
  2. ^ "What's in the Ice Cream Aisle? Archived 2018-05-04 at the Wayback Machine". International Dairy Foods Association. Retrieved 2016-10-20.
  3. ^ Bienenstock, David (August 20, 2015). "The Best Italian Ice Is Frozen in Time". Munchies. Vice Media. Retrieved 2016-07-23.
  4. ^ "Top 10 Italian Ice Flavors". K 104.7. 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2022-06-02.
  5. ^ "Water ice: What it is, what it isn't, how to say it and where to get it". pennlive. 2018-07-20. Retrieved 2022-05-25.
  6. ^ Von Bergen, Jane M. "What water ice teaches us about the world". Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  7. ^ Beans, Carolyn (2016-08-10). "Water Ice, Philly's Classic Summer Cooler, Gets Hot Across The Country". NPR. Retrieved 2022-05-25.
  8. ^ Simeti, Mary Taylor (2007-05-01). "At the Prince's Table: Food in The Leopard". Gastronomica. 7 (2): 64–70. doi:10.1525/gfc.2007.7.2.64. ISSN 1529-3262.
  9. ^ "Choice Reviews | Login". doi:10.5860/choice.38-4203. Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  10. ^ Davidson, Alan (2014-11-20). Jaine, Tom (ed.). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780199677337.001.0001/acref-9780199677337. ISBN 978-0-19-967733-7.
  11. ^ "Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value". Appendix B of 7 CFR Part 210. Food and Nutrition Service, United States Department of Agriculture. 13 September 2013. Retrieved 2017-08-04.