Mario’s Italian Lemonade
You haven’t had Italian Ice until you’ve had Mario’s. Sure, that’s a bold statement, but I’ll stand by it, and so will the many Chicagoans willing to wait in a line nearly 100 deep for a scoop of their fresh fruit ice. Located (very appropriately) in Little Italy, this beloved hole-in-the-wall stands as a nod to the pushcarts and stalls that used to pervade the neighborhood.
The stand has been a Taylor Street staple since owner Mario DiPaolo served his first ice in 1954. Perfectly embodying the neighborhood’s roots, it remains a family-run affair, currently operated by Mario’s son and his wife Maria. Colorful lanterns and Christmas lights hang above the shop’s sign, which is painted white, red and green — for the Italian flag, of course.
I’m not kidding when I say the line is long. But there’s nothing more satisfying than a Mario’s ice on a summer evening. I mean, I’ve driven all the way from Lincoln Park solely to satisfy a watermelon ice craving. And you may even make a new friend in line… whether it’s a UIC student, suit-wearing businessman or the elderly neighborhood couple. Mario’s serves nearly 20 different flavors of Italian Ice, including cantaloupe, pineapple and peach. Made from fresh fruit, many of the ices have chunks of real fruit in them, seeds and all. Lemon, not surprisingly, is the number one seller. The storefront also sells Italian Lupini beans, seeds, and nuts. Best of all, these tasty treats are easy on the wallet: a small “snowball” is just a buck! Though I’m sure Mario’s addicts would happily pay more for it.
Mario’s just also happens to be fortuitously located directly across the street from Al’s Italian Beef. So, if you want to be a true Chicagoan, you can enjoy a hearty beef followed by a Mario’s ice.
This remaining bit of true Italian culture is not to be missed. Mario’s opens May 1st, and generally closes sometime in September, leaving its loyal patrons eagerly awaiting next year.
Location: 1068 West Taylor Street