Water Ice: The Philly Treat

“Water ice? You mean, Italian ice?”

“Water ice? Isn’t ice made from water?”

“Water ice? Oh you mean an Icee/Gelato/Snocone?”

No, no, no my friends! Water ice is it’s own entity.

I get this reaction from so many visitors and tourists. Every summer, this special treat comes around to the enjoyment of Philadelphian’s taste buds. Water ice is essentially (for the sake of comparison) a soft version of Italian ice. Not ice with flavoring on top like a Snocone. Not in a watery state like an Icee or Slushie. Not in an extra creamy texture as a Gelato. And it is not just ice made from water.

Simply, water ice.

There are many companies who make this sweet treat all around Philadelphia. I love Philly Flavors and Fred’s.


Water ices from Fred’s Water Ice in Southwest Philly

One longtime company is Rita’s. Here is how they make a batch according to this Philly.com article:

  • The appropriate syrup and sugar are measured.
  • Water is loaded into the machine, followed by sugar, then the syrup.
  • Refrigeration and blade (“dasher”) systems are activated to mix and chill. At that point, such things as real fruit slices may be added.

It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to make a batch, depending on flavor and desired consistency. After it’s done, the water ice is hand-stirred every 30 minutes to maintain its creamy consistency. 

Sounds like cool yumminess to me!

The Great Debate: “Wooder Ice”

Another debate about this treat is the pronunciation of water ice. Here in Philly, we say it so fast, it doesn’t even bother us that some call it “wooder ice.” We all know what we mean.


I know someone who grew up in a state where pronunciation is key. She says it’s called “wah-ter ice” not “wooder ice” or “wuh-tuh ice.” Tsk, tsk. But she still ate it anyway.

Speaking of the name game, Rita’s just underwent a slight name change to benefit those who are confused on the term water ice. They are now called “Rita’s Italian Ice” instead of “Rita’s Water Ice.” Apparently, Italian ice is more well known to the tourist and eliminates confusion (as stated in the outset). Ah well, I’ll still call it Rita’s. 🙂

So now that you know a little background of water ice, why not try one when you visit? Don’t forget to add a soft pretzel with mustard to sooth the salty craving. I guarantee it will be a lovely experience!


One thought on “Water Ice: The Philly Treat

  1. Pingback: DIY Summer Treats for the Kiddos | niecynotes

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