Where to find the best water ice in Philadelphia
You haven’t lived until you’ve tried water ice in Philadelphia. Pick any place in America where Italians have settled and you’re sure to find fruit ices like they had in the old country. But this slushie-like summer treat of frozen water, fruit and sugar is nowhere more popular than in the City of Brotherly Love. “Wooder” ice, as we like to call it, is similar to the Philly cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, in that every neighborhood boasts its beloved OG spot that you may never encounter if you live in another part of town—at least, until now. Check out our guide to find the best—and most historic—spots for water ice in Philadelphia below. Once you’ve slurped it down, keep the sugar high going with something sweet from the best bakeries Philadelphia has to offer. You only live once, right? RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Philadelphia
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Tranzilli’s Real Italian Water Ice
Late stand founder Nobel Tranzilli based his water ice recipes on the granita he remembered from his native Italy (hence their “real Italian water ice” tagline). Today his daughter Marisa Green carries on the Nobel tradition of super-cold and firm water ice and warmed pretzels.
John’s Water Ice
In 1945, heating-oil man John Cardullo started selling water ice in Bella Vista as a way to make money during the off-season. Today, his grandson Anthony continues to make John’s original lemon and cherry flavors, as well as pineapple and the Saturday specials (like strawberry, mango, cantaloupe and lime), from real fruit squeezed by hand. President Obama put John’s Water Ice in the national headlines, when he stopped there during campaign season in 2011.
Lucio Mancuso & Son
Fresh-made ricotta and mozzarella—and the chance to catch up on East Passyunk Avenue gossip—draw an old-school, year-round crowd to this circa-1940 Italian specialty shop. But, in summer, nothing beats the blast-from-the-past experience of slurping one of 82-year-old Phil Mancuso’s lemon, cherry or chocolate water ices at the bench in front of his shop.
Pop’s Homemade Italian Ice
Filippo “Pop” Italiano began to hawk water ice in 1932 from a Marconi Plaza street cart; six years later, in 1938, operations moved to this South Philly building across the street. Standout flavors include Pop’s original recipes for lemon, ginger ale and—by late June—peach, made from fresh Jersey peaches that his granddaughter Linda Raffa fetches from an orchard near her house.
Marrone’s Water Ice
This corner walkup window has gone through several owners and menu expansions since its 1925 opening (not surprisingly). One favorite non-water-ice offering: their upside-down-sundae (served in a cup).
Rose’s Water Ice
This marine-green corner takeout window and a sister Ridge Avenue stand are almost all that's left of a water-ice dynasty that started with Rose (last name not known) selling water ice out of her Feltonville garage in the 1950s. The operation once included three Northeast iceries and a fleet of converted post office Jeeps that served as food trucks before food trucks were cool. Go for the lemon, cherry, chocolate and mango flavors that are still made from Rose’s recipes.
Fred’s Water Ice
Nowadays, four stands and numerous carts throughout the city bear Fred’s name, but none can hold a candle to the original Kingsessing location: a former tire shop right across the street from where fresh-out-of-high-school Fred Cooper, now 48, sold water ice from a sidewalk freezer. Sidle up and work your way through the 24 flavors, including blueberry and sour apple.
Gus Bauman, 70, makes his water ice by chopping cherry- or pineapple-flavored ice blocks by hand, imitating his late father, shop founder “Hecker” Bauman. No machinery is involved, hence his ice’s chunky consistency. Hecker reportedly also invented the “radio ball,” Port Richmond’s variation on gelati (which is a mixture, rather than a layering, of water ice and ice cream) that Gus still sells.
Here’s your chance to visit the world’s only pizza museum while enjoying a slice. This quirky pizzeria in Northern Liberties is not only a place to grab an artisanal pie—it doubles as a gallery packed with quirky pizza memorabilia. Among the items on display are Barbie boy toy Ken dressed as a pizza delivery person and a Starship Enterprise–shaped pizza cutter. Have a look while munching on a slice of, say, bacon–brussels-sprouts pie from their menu that includes a variety of creative red- and white-sauce and veggie pizzas.
Try these quirky Philly versions of Thanksgiving fare
The only thing more boring about Thanksgiving than Uncle Harry's favorite Pilgrim-walks-into-a-bar joke? The same-old, same-old menu of turkey-stuffing-potatoes-gravy-cranberry sauce served side-by-side on a plate. But fear not: Here we share some unique Philly riffs on traditional Thanksgiving fare that will free you from the Turkey Day menu rut. Thanksgiving Balls at the Blind Pig The NoLibs gastropub’s most famous app is a deep-fried double entendre consisting of turkey roasted at the bar, stuffing and mashed potatoes, all rolled in panko bread crumbs and served with sides of gravy, cranberry sauce and a dash of off-color humor that’d make Grandma blush. $9/two. The Gobbling at Humpty’s Dumplings Stop the multidish Thanksgiving dinner madness. Instead serve your guests a single bowl of these turkey-, stuffing- and cranberry-filled dumplings from the fusion-noodle emporium. $7.50/five. Thanksgiving Poutine at Smoke’s Poutinerie Canadians celebrate the harvest with a big feast, don’cha know—only six weeks earlier than us. That’s why the South Street branch of Canadian poutinerie chain Smoke’s has been offering this special—piling turkey, stuffing, peas and cranberry sauce on top of the usual cheese curds, gravy and fries—since early October. $11. Gobblerito at Mad Mex Through Thanksgiving Eve, Mad Mex rolls your T-Day standbys—turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing—into a burrito with black beans and corn. It’s finished with a healthy douse of gravy and a side of cranberry