Italian or Water Ice — Whatever You Call It, It’s a Jersey Thing
The icy, flavored treat we enjoy here in the summer, is considered a New Jersey creation.
In NYC they call it "ices." In Central and North Jersey, it's known as THE "Italian ice," and in South Jersey and Philly it's called "water ice."
I know, it doesn't make sense, but that's what we call it where I'm from.
A few years back while visiting Sicily, my friend treated me to a "granita." Ah-ha that's where the stuff comes from. It's true. Southern Italian immigrants brought one of their favorite summertime treats to the states, and since no one wanted to bother pronouncing "granita," it took on an identity of its own.
Granita is an original Sicilian treat, but you can find it in beach towns all over Southern Italy. The original and traditional flavors are coffee and lemon, but of course, here in America, we have to have it in mango, orange, cherry, and whatever flavor the locals want to offer it in.
It has spread to other parts of the country, but attribution for its origin is given to New Jersey.
There's a company in several cities in Texas called Gelu that sells a similar thing, and they just call it "Gelu."
The big franchise in our area is Rita's. But there are some legendary local mom-and-pop places throughout the state. The one that people seem to drive the furthest for, including me, is DiCosmo's in Elizabeth.
Get there early if you want your favorite flavor because once they run out for the day, they're out. "Try tomorrow...maybe."
Great people and great Italian Ice, or ices, but don't say water ice at DiCosmo's. If you do, they'll know you're from waaaay out of town.