Scoops 6: Italian Ice Edition New York City Entry #105
With summer fully in place, I have been scurrying through the boroughs, tracking down the premier Italian ices: specifically Staten Island's Ralph's (with two outlets in Queens), Brooklyn's L&B Spumoni Gardens, and Queens' Lemon Ice King of Corona. Although it would be nice to report a race to the finish, in fact the outcome was never in doubt.
It is said that Frank Sinatra used to have his driver trek to Corona for Lemon Ice. Ol' Blue Eyes sure knew his ices. LIKC makes the Italian Ice of one's dreams. The ice is finely pulverized, leaving no chunks. The only texture comes from tiny bits of fruit, not so large as to become frozen. Whether one is consuming lemon, melon, peach, vanilla chip, cherry, or strawberry, the flavor is intense and pure. On any day, there are likely to be two dozen choices. As LIKC is about ten blocks from the nearest subway line (the 7), one works up a sweat that only a LIKC ice can satisfy. Famously the Lemon Ice King does not permit mixing of flavors, so it has become my habit (and it is becoming a habit) to purchase three small cups.
If getting to LIKC is a hike, Ralph's requires a car, taxi, or a Staten Island bus. Like LIKC, ices are served through the front window. And like LIKC, Ralph's has some two dozen (some water-based - the one's I tried - and some milk-based). I was impressed by the depth of flavor - I ordered Sour Cherry and Cantaloupe. The intensity of the cherry was remarkable. However, small chunks of ice remained in each. Should one prefer an ice that edges toward a snow cone, Ralph's will surely suit.
Most disappointing was the watermelon ice that I had at Brooklyn's L&B Spumoni Gardens (the spumoni ice cream was just fine, although the Sicilian square pizza slice was a bit salty for my taste. L&B is more a restaurant than an icery - but they, too have a front window to make one's purchases). Neither the flavor or texture made my trip to Gravesend worth repeating. When one describes the flavor of an Italian ice as "subtle," one knows trouble is afoot. I give L&B credit for providing something cool on a hot day, but I'll stick with spumoni.
Lemon Ice King of Corona
52-02 108th Street (at Corona Avenue)
L&B Spumoni Gardens
2725 86th Street (at West 10th Street and Avenue V)
Ralph's Famous Italian Ices
501 Port Richmond Avenue (at Catherine Street)
Staten Island (Port Richmond)
4 weeks ago