Restaurants

Lemon ice is a favorite in Chicago's suburbs

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Warm weather means people turn to cool treats like ice cream or popsicles. In the Italian community, there is one remedy besides gelato- and that is lemon ice.

Johnnie's in Elmwood Park is known for more than its Italian beef. For more than 50 years, the restaurant has also served lemonade.

"Well they don't know what the Italian ice is. They think it's a glass of lemonade coming out," said Frank Stompanato, owner of Johnnie's.

It's not lemonade in the traditional sense. It's smooth, icy, lemony pleasure, that borders on creamy.

"The machine makes a big difference. Yeah, the temperature of the machine on how it comes out, how we want it...consistency-wise is very important to us," Stompanato said.

Fresh lemon peels are tossed into the mix as the ice comes out of the machine.

Since there's so much demand for it, turnover is constant throughout the day, resulting in a product that's never hard frozen.

"We just need a smooth, thick texture, with lemons in there. And then the flavor alone should be in there. If you have the right stuff in there, it'll taste like lemon," said Stompanato.

A few miles away in Cicero, Freddy's Pizza is the place to go for both gelato and ice. Owner Joe Quercia doesn't worry about giving away the secret, since it's pretty simple.

"Lemon ice. It's sugar, water, fresh lemon. Squeezed, put them in the machine and let it freeze it," he said.

Over the years, Quercia has mastered the ratio of ingredients.

"It needs a lot of practice. A lot of practice. You have to have a combination between sugar. You can't do too sweet, not too tart," said Quercia. "If it's too much sugar, it won't be able to freeze. If it's under, it'll be too icy and it doesn't work. So you have to have the right combination."

Quercia has had to expand his icy range over the years to reflect the demands of his customers.

"And with the years, people want to have more flavors like cantaloupe, watermelon and strawberry," Quercia said.

Like Quercia, Gina's Italian Ice in Berwyn is also popular for its range of flavors.

Gina's Italian Ice
6737 12th St., Berwyn, Ill.
(708) 484-0944
www.ginasitalianice.com

Freddy's Pizza
1600 S. 61st Ave., Cicero, Ill.
(708) 863-9289
www.freddyspizza.com

Johnnie's
7500 W. North Ave, Elmwood Park, Ill.
(708) 452-6000

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