There’s Plenty to Please Your Palate at Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard
Writer / Matt Keating
Photographer / Justin Sicking
Steve Wilkos, co-owner of Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard, says he loves his customers’ reactions when they discover his establishment.
The secret is the relaxing, city-owned courtyard, located directly behind the patio.
Wilkos says he loves working at his family-owned business.
“My wife Sue and I, and our two boys, Steven, 17, and Tyler, 15, entered into this business together,” Wilkos says. “One of the things I enjoy the most is that we have complete control over the environment, and we can make it a super fun place to enjoy a treat and work.”
Wilkos says he began working when he was a child, and developed a solid work ethic that has helped him tremendously over the years.
It’s a work ethic Wilkos wants to pass on to his children.
“I wanted to leave my kids something, and what I can leave them is the ability to start and run a business,” he says. “If they can do that, they can control their own destiny. They have been along for the entire journey, and are really doing a great job.”
Wilkos adds that he admires their work with customers.
“I am really proud of them,” Wilkos says. “We spent two years working towards this, searching for locations, understanding demographics, market research, pricing, and studying what was out there. While we had other potential sites, and the boys were anxious on those, once we solidified this location both of them said, ‘Now I understand why this is the spot we waited and searched for.’”
Wilkos received substantial input from his family before they opened the shop.
Rita’s has already earned a reputation for high-quality and tasty treats.
“Our gelati, which is a treat made with our award-winning custard and Italian ice, gives the best of both worlds, and is unique to Rita’s,” Wilkos says. “Our Mango, Cherry, Blue Raspberry and Cotton Candy are among the favorites, and we have traditional Lemon and cream ices like Cookies and Cream as well. We also offer a sugar-free option daily.”
Wilkos says he has his own personal favorites.
“I love a mango gelati – a large of course – and a Reese’s mudslide concrete is my go-to, feel-good treat,” he says.
Wilkos says he and his family work with an outstanding staff.
“They are amazing,” he says. “We are so fortunate they chose to work with us. They have bought on and in to the Rita’s experience. We have had zero turnover, and we appreciate all that they do. They work so hard.”
Wilkos says Rita’s, which is part of a chain, has east-coast roots.
“Italian ice, often referred to as water ice, was a staple in east-coast neighborhoods in the 1970s, such as my business in Colonia, New Jersey,” Wilkos says. “Rita’s was started by a Philadelphia firefighter in 1984, using his mom’s recipe, selling the ice from his small front porch.”
Wilkos says he couldn’t be more appreciative of his customers.
“We are appreciative of the community, and the city of Carmel, that have embraced Rita’s,” Wilkos says.
Rita’s is located at 110 West Main Street, Suite 127 in Carmel. For more info, call 317-671-6878 or visit ritasice.com.