An East Coast favorite has finally made it to Brentwood.
Rita’s Italian Ice, a staple from Florida to New York, may not have invented Italian ice, but they certainly made it cool. Now, Anthony and Marcia Damiano, owners of the Brentwood location, are serving up scoops of icy happiness to smiling faces at their store on Balfour Road.
“We went to Rita’s often while we were living in New Jersey,” said Anthony. “There was always a line, especially in the summer. We loved it.”
When they moved back to California in 2007, they knew they had to bring the sweet frozen treats with them.
“We kept checking with the company over the years, and in 2015, they had decided to expand to California, so we opened a seasonal spot in Concord,” said Marcia. “However, we knew we still wanted a storefront, and when they opened the franchise to the county, we came straight to Brentwood.”
According to the company’s website, Rita’s story begins in the sweltering hot summer of 1984. It was then that Bob Tumolo, a former Philadelphia firefighter, started selling Italian ice (also referred to as water ice) from a small porch window in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. With the modest goal of earning a little extra income, he named the business after his wife, Rita.
In 1989, Bob started franchising the business, and by 1996, Rita’s had grown to more than 100 outlets in nine states. Today, Rita’s Italian Ice continues to grow, expand and spread happiness everywhere it goes. The treats are still made fresh every day with real fruit, just like it was in the early days.
So far, the public response to the newest spot for icy treats has been overwhelmingly positive, in spite of the recent cool temperatures.
“We had our soft opening on Dec. 2, and we’re in second place of all the locations nationwide,” said Marcia. “In fact, for one of the weeks in December, we actually beat a Florida store for sales. The people here have been so good to us.”
While the customers are being good to the owners, the owners are returning the favor, serving up delicious Italian ice, custard and other treats with a smile and superb service.
“I was (at Rita’s) the other day and got a full tour,” said Torri Campbell in an online review. “I ended up doing a cookie sandwich, which goes in the panini press – genius! It was so yummy, and I will definitely be back. It's a must-try for sure! They have something for everyone.”
In addition to Italian ice and custard, the business also offers, cookies, toppings and to-go containers in quarts, gallons, 2.5 gallons and 600 ounces, for pickup or delivery with hand-scooping for catering, weddings and other events. The store’s grand opening has been scheduled for Feb. 24, from noon to 10 p.m., with $1 Italian ice and $2 gellati (custard and Italian ice together). In addition, the first 50 people in line will receive free Italian ice for a year.
“This is a happy place,” said Marcia. “You order happiness, and you pick up happiness. We love to see people’s faces light up when they have Italian ice for the first time, so please stop by for a sample.”