Philly: John’s Water Ice
The best sweet treat of the summer is found just a couple blocks east of the Italian Market, at an unassuming-but-bright walk-up counter with seasonal hours and zero seating. John’s Water Ice has been serving in South Philly since 1945, when Sicilian immigrant John Cardullo was looking for a summer alternative to his heating oil business. He found it by mixing the ice he delivered year-round with fresh fruit and sugar, and the cups of sweet slush he created back then are good as ever today.
Third-generation owner Anthony Cardullo still makes Italian ice the same way, with hand-squeezed juice and filtered water. The regular flavors of cherry, lemon, chocolate and pineapple are supplemented on weekends by rotating specials, depending on what’s available at the market. Recent options included banana, strawberry and cantaloupe. A “small” cup (plenty for anyone, really) runs just $1.50, and if you want to tempt brain freeze, you can go for a large at $2.75. For the proper water ice experience, eschew the spoon, and arm yourself with a large pretzel rod, the best way to get the last bits of cooling ice from your well-worn cup onto your waiting tongue.