On a hot summer day, nothing is more satisfying than Italian ice. It’s up there with hitting the beach and sipping drinks on a patio, and it even rivals ice cream in the summer dessert smackdown. The light, tart, refreshing treat always hits the spot, and we’ve got plenty of great Italian ice options in Chicago, from Little Italy to the 'burbs.
Where to find the best Italian ice in Chicago
This no-frills seasonal stand has been churning out Italian lemonade since 1954. Though it serves novelties such as snowballs and nuts, you’re really there for the namesake goods: delicately shaved ice with pieces of lemon rinds and flecks of zest, naturally flavored and not too tart or overly sweet. Flavors get fancy—like chocolate or piña colada—but our recommendation is to stick to the fruits (cantaloupe, for example, comes with melon chunks).
The list of Italian ice at this Armitage Avenue walk up shop is ridiculously long. The patio seats are perfect for sitting out with a cake cone or a scoop of your favorite Italian ice flavor—whether it's lemon, strawberry or something weirder like black cherry—on a sunny day before exploring the rest of the shopping Armitage has to offer.
You’d think that a seasonal Italian-ice shop run out of the basement window of a two-story house would be easy to miss, but thanks to the legions of fans who fill the sidewalk with their strollers and leashed-up dogs, there’s little chance of sidestepping it. It’s futile to resist anyway—fresh fruits get pulverized then frozen (seeds and all!) into a consistency somewhere between Hawaiian shave ice and sorbet. We swoon over fleeting flavors like peach and black raspberry (flavors change daily), but watermelon and lemon are just about as worthy of a detour.
Mario’s may get all the love in Little Italy and University Village, but there’s another delicious spot in the area with a fraction of the wait: Carm’s. Situated on an unassuming neighborhood corner, this Italian beef and ice spot has been dishing out old school treats to Chicago since 1929. With 11 flavors of their homemade Italian ice (including classics like lemon and lime, as well as blue raspberry, chocolate and banana), Carm’s is sure to hit the spot.
Right about where Oak Park meets Berwyn, you’ll find Gina Tremonte scooping out Italian ice to her legion of loyal families in the summertime. She uses fresh fruit in most of the dozen flavors, with lemon, watermelon and cantaloupe as the top three sellers. Supertart lemon ice fans won’t be disappointed here, and fans of campy horror can stroll two doors down to Horrorbles to pick up a Svengoolie rubber chicken or a signed Basil Gogos book.
Walk up to this retro grill's bar that's lined with cases of Italian ice and ice cream, which will immediately draw your attention away from any of the other menus that exist. Large scoops piled in styrofoam cups of Italian ice flavors like the classic lemon and strawberry have us wishing summer could last forever.