Rita's - New Location, New Summertime Treat
Rita's - New Location, New Summertime Treat
by Jennifer LB Leese
Aww, summer is coming and that means...warmer weather, long days by the water, laying out in the shade, cookouts and, of course, Italian ice!
Along with ice cream, Italian ice is a popular summer frozen treat. If you live in Hagerstown, you should be pretty much familiar with Rita's on Pennsylvania Avenue. But are you aware of the Rita's on Virginia Avenue?
Denny Myers and his wife Cindy started Rita's in Hagerstown in May of 2003. "We both thought it would be exiting to own our own business, and really liked the Rita's products, so we purchased our first franchise," said Denny. "The first flavor that I tasted was raspberry and Cindy tried blueberry. That's all it took, we were hooked!"
It's no wonder they had to open another shop in Hagerstown - Rita's is the leading frozen dessert franchiser in Eastern US.* With Rita's around, it's pretty hard to find a better tasting summertime treat.
According to Denny, the best-selling flavor in our area is pretty much a close race between mango, cherry, and root beer. "But by far our best-selling product is the Gelati. I think it is so popular because of the high quality of our products used to make the Gelati," Denny said. "We make our own fresh Italian ices at each store every day, and our frozen custard recipe is one of the best we've ever tasted."
Founder Bob Tumolo worked as a Philadelphia firefighter when he started his side business - Rita's - to augment his income. But the business quickly turned to gold after the first unit generated more than two and a half times his projected earnings in its first year.
"Rita's opened in the summer of 1984. In the months preceding the May grand opening of the first Rita's store, Bob Tumolo and his mother, Elizabeth, were busy experimenting on recipes for Italian water ice. In 1985, Bob's brother John Tumolo joined the business, and a second location was added in 1987. By 1989, the family decided to franchise its stores.
"In May of 2005, Rita's was purchased by Pittsburgh-based McKnight Capital Partners under the direction of CEO Jim Rudolph. Today Rita's is the nation's largest Italian Ice chain with more than 400 stores and an aggressive growth plan of 1,500 stores by 2,010.
"Rita's features Ices, Cones, Shakes and other Cool Stuff. Rita's Italian Ices are made fresh daily and available in more than 30 different flavors. Rita's old-fashioned Frozen Custard, available in chocolate and vanilla, can be served in either a cone or a cup. Rita's famous Gelati provides frozen dessert fans with the best of both worlds with its layers of Italian Ice and Frozen Custard. Rita's Misto, the coolest name in shakes, is a blend of Italian Ice and creamy custard that, when blended, forms a refreshing treat that can be enjoyed on the go. Rita's also offers Cream Ices for those who prefer a treat that is smoother and richer than Italian Ice, but not as heavy as traditional ice cream." (Rita's)
Rita's unassuming kiosk-style units with picnic-bench seating and telltale red and white awnings dot numerous corners throughout the East Coast.
Open for seven months out of the year, all Rita's stores sell various flavors of Italian ice, including cherry, lemon, and mango, to hungry customers ready for a sweet pleasures.
New this year is Rita's Blendini(tm) - a blended creation of Rita's Frozen Custard, crushed Oreo(r) cookies or Nilla(r) Wafer pieces and Rita's famous Italian/Cream Ice blended together into a delicious frozen treat you eat with a spoon.
Rita's in Hagerstown has 32 different flavors of Italian ices or cream ices such as raspberry, strawberry, mango, cookies and cream, orange cream, root beer, and lemon.
What is an Italian Ice?
Think refreshing, fresh, tongue-tingling fruit flavors. Think of a no-fat cool treat that is made from ice and real fruit. Rita's Italian ices are much smoother than a snow cone or shaved ice and are made fresh everyday.
What is a Cream Ice?
Smooth, silky and packed with flavor. Rita's Cream Ices will remind you of your favorite flavors of ice cream without that heavy feeling. One taste and "You'll never eat ice cream again." All of the flavor of ice cream, without all of the fat. Cream ice is a creamier version of Italian Ice.
What is a Gelati?
Rita's Gelati is made by layering Rita's vanilla, chocolate or twist old-fashioned custard and your favorite Italian ice or cream ice.
What is a Misto?
Invented by Rita's in 1998, a Misto is a creamy, cool shake that blends our vanilla or chocolate old-fashioned custard and your favorite flavor of Italian ice or cream ice to create an incredible taste sensation. It is "The coolest name in shakes."
What is a frozen custard?
Rita's frozen custard is a gourmet soft ice cream with a great smooth, satiny texture. Made with the highest quality ingredients to make the taste richer and smoother. Rita's Custard is by far the best! This product is Rita's version of the old-fashioned classic. Creamy and tasty...served in a cup or on a cone. (Descriptions by Rita's Italian Ice)
Interesting Water Ice Fact
"The History of Italian Ice dates to the days of ancient Rome when, in summer, Emperors dispatched runners to the highest mountains to retrieve snow. Mixed with summer's fresh fruits, the ices made a deeply satisfying frozen treat. For generations, the Romans and then the Italians enjoyed flavored ice. They ate it alone or mixed it with ice cream to make Gelati, a combination of Italian ice and soft ice cream.
"When Italians immigrated to the United States in the early part of the 20th Century, they brought with them their recipes for flavored ices, which were made from either crushed ice or by shaving blocks of ice with sharpened blades. Different from sherbets, Italian ice has no added cream, and unlike sorbets it's served in a cup, slightly wetter and more tasty.
"In the Italian neighborhoods of South Philadelphia, Italian ice has long been a summertime passion with small walk-up windows serving pineapple, lemon, and cherry Italian ices." (Rita's)
Both Rita's in Hagerstown shops opened this season on March 8 and will be open until mid-October. They are open noon to 10pm, seven days a week at both Pennsylvania and Virginia Avenue locations.
*Facts from Rita's Italian Ice Corporation.