It’s not ice cream, and it’s not shaved ice.
Rita’s of Clovis has brought an East Coast tradition to central California: Italian ice.
The shop, at 1195 Shaw Ave. across the street from Sierra Vista Mall, specializes in Italian ice, a combination of water and fresh fruit or flavored syrups that are churned like ice cream to create an icy treat that’s smoother and thicker than shaved ice.
Rita’s has 12 flavors of Italian ice available each day. Mango and cotton candy (which is blue and tastes surprisingly like the actual fair treat) are the top sellers at this location. The store rotates through more than 65 flavors – ranging from chocolate to Swedish Fish and includes sugar-free options – changing them frequently as the ices are made fresh.
It’s huge on the East Coast.
Ben Steinberg, about Rita’s
Rita’s also sells a frozen custard that’s a little bit different than what you’re used to. It’s similar to soft-serve ice cream, but it has an egg base, which makes it richer and creamier. The store has 10 flavors of custard available daily.
People who want to experience both in one sitting can get a gelati: a cup with custard on the bottom, a thick layer of Italian ice in the middle and a big dollop of custard on top.
A few other creative options include cakes, toppings for your dessert, custard cookie sandwiches, and blending Italian ice and custard to make a drink.
“You can sample anything you want before you buy it,” says Ben Steinberg, who owns the location with his wife, Jamie DiPietro.
The pair has completely different day jobs. He’s a urogynecologist, and she’s a urologist.
Mango Italian ice is the most popular flavor nationwide.
Steinberg is from southern New Jersey, not far from where a former Philadelphia firefighter started selling the Italian ice and named the business after his wife.
“I grew up eating this almost every weekend,” Steinberg says. “When I got here, I was surprised there weren’t any Rita’s.”
So he brought the first Rita’s franchise to the central San Joaquin Valley.
Rita’s also participates in fundraising for both local and national causes.
Rita’s is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Details: (559) 940-7616.