We have been on HUNDREDS of outings over the past 7+ years. So many, actually, that we’ve had to start creating directory posts to keep track and create some organization. Posts like:
- The Big List of Connecticut Playgrounds
- The Ultimate Guide to Indoor Play Areas
- Out and About Mom’s Trail Guide
- Family-Friendly Outdoor Dining Spots
- Top Ice Cream Destinations
Not only do these posts act as handy dandy lists for our readers, but they have an added benefit for us! You see, just about every time I share one on our Facebook Page, I get a suggestion from one of our wonderful readers about a new place to visit that is not yet on the list. I can’t tell you how many new places we’ve been able to discover and share with other CT parents because of YOUR help! (Keep the recommendations coming!)
But no post seems to get quite so much enthusiastic feedback as that last one on the list: “Top Ice Cream Destinations.” We sure are passionate about our ice cream here in this state!
One time, rather than a recommendation, we had a reader ask if we could start noting which ice cream places offered dairy-free options (a super idea! we started immediately!). And ever since then, I’ve really been paying attention to dairy-free frozen treats.
So when I found out about Rita’s Italian Ice, which has not just one or two, but DOZENS of dairy-free options, I knew that destination needed to be on our list!
Now, Rita’s is a chain, so even though I’m going to tell you about our visit to the location in Rocky Hill, CT, you may be able to find one closer to your neck of the woods. According to their website (at the time of this posting), there are ten other CT locations as well.
The one in Rocky Hill is located on Silas Deane Highway.
There’s parking around back.
At this location, there is a walk-up window where you order, and some outdoor seating. Unless you are good at making quick decisions, you might want to check the website to get an idea of the flavors and offerings before you come. Not every flavor will be available every day, obviously, but you can at least get a head start!
In addition to Italian Ice, Rita’s serves dairy treats like Frozen Custard. The boys decided to sample a “Blendini,” which can either be a combination of ice and custard, or just custard. And then there are the mix-ins like Oreos, chocolate chips, gummy bears… The boys definitely took their sweet time crafting the perfect frozen concoction! (Good thing there wasn’t a line.)
I got the universal sign of approval from both boys.
Since we had come here specifically for the dairy-free treats, I knew I would be ordering Italian Ice. I was not prepared to have to choose from a dozen different flavors though! Luckily for me, Rita’s offers an “Italian Ice Flight” where you can pick FOUR different flavors to try. That made ordering considerably easier 🙂
Now, let’s be clear. This is not the Italian Ice of my youth– bought off the ice cream truck in a cup and scraped with a small wooden spatula in a way that gave you that “nails on a chalkboard” feeling. The kind that, if allowed to melt, would leave you with a pool of flavored liquid and hard chunks.
Nor is this anything like a snow cone, all hard bits of ice and sugary syrup.
This Italian Ice is smooth, soft and spoon-ready.
The Italian Ice was so delicious, that even the boys kind of wished they hadn’t been quite so hasty with the chocolate and candy. My older son even told me that the relatively exotic black cherry flavor was his favorite! (And this is a kid who rejects french fries and whom I sometimes have to bribe to eat pizza.)
But of course, I also had an, ahem, obligation to try the custard too, right? So I got a dish of the vanilla flavor. It looks a lot like soft serve ice cream, but the texture is very different. It’s both lighter and more dense all at the same time. And it’s super smooth. I thought it was delicious.
Of course, as soon as we got back in the car I started Googling frozen custard to figure out what the heck is the difference between that and it’s ice cream counterpart. Apparently it all comes down to egg yolks and air. (And did you know that the FDA actually has specific standards for what can be labeled as “Ice Cream”? I figured any frozen dairy qualified but apparently not!) If you’re curious, here’s a good resource that helps explain it.
As I mentioned, this location is just a walk-up window and there are maybe 3 benches out front and a table around back.
Or you can sit on the wall and count the cars. Apparently this makes a good companion activity to frozen custard eating.
The other thing that’s really nice about Rita’s is that they post all their nutritional information online. You can find the complete 2019 information here. You can also find allergy information for 2019 here. (And if you still have additional nutritional questions, you can probably find the answers here.)
So if you or any of your family members are looking to skip the dairy this summer, be sure to stop by a Rita’s. It’s definitely a frozen treat destination that won’t make you feel like you’re compromising anything to be dairy-free.
Have you been to a Rita’s? What’s your favorite flavor?
Locations nationwide, with many in Connecticut. For this post we chose the Rocky Hill location at 1783 Silas Deane Highway.
Seasonal, mid-March to mid-October. Currently, the hours are Monday-Thursday, 12:00pm-9:00pm; Friday-Sunday, 12:00pm-10:00pm. Check their website for details.
Prices vary by menu item and range from about $3.50 to $6.00 per item (not including add-ons). You can view a menu here, but there are no prices on it (still helpful for planning purposes though!).
- Stroller Friendly: YES
- Coffee Mug Friendly: Sure, why not.
- Restroom: NO, this location is an outdoor stand.
- Baby Changing Station: NO
- Parking: YES, around back
- Food for Sale: Frozen treats totally count as food, right? 🙂
- Outside Food Allowed: I don’t think anyone would stop you, but aren’t you there for the frozen goodies?
- Cash Required: NO, credit cards are accepted
- Dress Code: N/A
- Age Recommendation: All ages!
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES
- Birthday Party Venue: NO, but they do have a Birthday Club where you can get a free treat on your birthday! Rita’s also offers catering, so you can bring birthday treat goodness to your location.
- Discounts: None that we know of.
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