Italian ice
Italian ice.jpg
Italian ice in a paper cup
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 Mid-Atlantic United States in the 19th and 20th century as well but granita that was specifically brought to Philadelphia during this time had garnered the distinctive regional nickname. It has been described as a "variation on the more broadly-accepted Italian ice."[6] Water ice is generally sold in Philadelphia 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]


Except when made from fruit or fruit juice, Italian ice is defined in US law as a food of minimal nutritional value.[8]

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?". 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. ^ "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.