You Say Granita, I Say Wooder (Water) Ice.

Lemon Water IceAnother post that brings me back to my childhood while growing up in the outskirts of Philadelphia and its plethora of suburbs. One of my favorite summertime treats (I was too young to know the beauty that is a soft-shell crab, mind you) was a local treat called Water Ice (pronounced “wooder ice” when speaking with a strong Philly accent) or as others call it Italian Ice. The memories I have is of being 8-years old and going to a corner store (it probably was Wawa – don’t be scared by the name – it’s one of the best local-chain convenience stores on this earth, no lie – anyone who knows Wawa, please comment!) with $1.00 and a need to cool down. I’d go over to the ice cream “chest” and, with all my might, pull open the sliding top. Choco-taco? Naaaah. Fudgsicles? Hells No! Firecracker or Push-Ups? NO! I came here for one thing and one thing only – WOODER ICE! And there she was every time, that lovely, simple, white cup with a paper “lid” that a child could easily remove with fingers or teeth – Lemon, Cherry or Watermelon Rosati-brand Italian Water Ice in a 6 ounce cup – wooden spoon included. This was one of my favorite brands growing up – especially lemon. I loved using that stupid wooden spoon to scratch off the top, super-frozen layer, knowing that with every passing minute, the water ice would melt a bit more making it easier for me to get bigger chunks to eat. By the time I was almost finished, I was left with a pool of sugary-tart lemony syrup-water.

What I Don't Want from the Ice Cream Man

See, I didn’t live in South Philly, but most of my extended family did. Water ice from the Water Ice stands there were a bit different than the frozen Rosati cups I would eat. Rosati’s was a bit like frozen flavored ice. The other type Philadelphia water ice is a bit creamier and very easily scooped intoRosati Ice Logo cups. Now in the Philadelphia area, water ice is so popular a huge chain called Rita’s Water Ice has emerged everywhere (almost like how Starbucks is everywhere). But, I miss those days of going into Wawa and grabbing a cup of Rosati’s. This recipe for Water Ice is closer to that one than the softer, scoopable Rita’s Water Ice. And, yes, when you scrape it with a spoon, it does kind of look like granita… but I refuse to call it that.

Whether you call it granita or water ice, cool yourself down with this fat-free treat. Make individual sizes by pouring the mixture in cups and freeze that way or make one large “tray” and scrape out however much you want. It’s refreshing, sweet, tart and will have you saying “Wooder Ice” in no time! Here’s a question for you – do you have any summertime sweet food memories that are similar or different from mine? I’m curious.





  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • the zest of one lemon

What to do:

  • Boil water and sugar together for a few minutes till they become one.
  • Stir in lemon juice and zest.
  • Pour into a glass bowl, glass baking pan, popsicle trays or individual ramekin and allow to freeze.

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55 thoughts on “You Say Granita, I Say Wooder (Water) Ice.

  1. We used to get those frozen malt-chocolate thingies… like ice cream, hehe. But yes, they came with the paper lid! And the wooden spoon! I still think it’s the wooden spoon that makes it good. You know how when you eat with the wooden spoon and there’s melted ice cream (or in this case, water ice) on it, you sort of suck on it and get its woody flavor as well. =)

    We like the corn ice cream (sorbetes) with cheese.

  2. Hey, Lisa! Thanks for the question. As long as you don’t fill it completely to the top with the mixture and there’s no lid, you should be absolutely fine. no expansion issues!

  3. I’m a native Philadelphian – first South Philly, then the ‘burbs. Sadly, now I’m in Texas.

    Wawa IS indeed the king of convenience stores. I’d give anything to be able to go in and buy a soft pretzel right now! I haven’t lived in the Philly area since 1994, but I still have 2 Wawa travel mugs!

    Now – Rosati’s water ice is good. HOWEVER! My grandmother lived at 10th & Jackson in South Philly, and we cousins used to, after dinner, walk around the corner to a little store there that had a window that opened to the street. “Fresh” water ice on a hot summer evening – WONDERFUL!

  4. Hey Txvoodoo! What a great comment! It’s great to hear from fellow Philly natives. You’re so right, though, about he fresh stuff down in S. philly. nothing beats it, hands down. i would love to know how to make that stuff at home, but there’s no way i can figure it out! plus, it’s also the experience of being in south philly and walking around in the heat with your water ice. thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. Well now I have yet ANOTHER reason to check out Philly… πŸ™‚

    The ices look quite refreshing. It brings me back to my elementary school days where we were given flavored ice as a dessert, and they came in all sorts of flavors. I’m sure it’s not quite the same as yours, but hey, kids love flavored sugar ice right?

  6. Wawa even sells hoagies! It’s a one stop shop.

    6th and Federal in South Philly for some time, then it was off to Mt Airy then out to Elkins Park and now Atlanta. I remember the first trip my wife took with me back home and I said that I was going to Wawa to get some smokes. She said “going to the what?! What’s a Wawa?”

    You gotta love the guys pushing the water ice carts too. They and the ice cream truck are great kid, summer memories. You can’t forget butterscotch krimpets!

    Great recipe. It’s been bookmarked soon to be blogged. Maybe we’ll get the whole blogosphere eating scrapple, chipped beef, and wooooder ice!

  7. my brother lives in baltimore – they have a wawa down the road. but growing up in queens, i know all about the scrape ice and the softer kind too. the scrape kind had the sugary crystals on the bottom and you used that wooden flat spoon thing. but the lemon ice king of corona was THE BEST….

  8. Ha- this is great! I love the pronunciation of wooder. I am from outside Philly on the Jersey side so I am used to the same type of accent. I had water ice as a kid too- love it! We now have Rita’s down here in VA so that is the closest thing I get to the real deal. Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier! I’m going to have a cruise around your blog as well! Oh weren’t the late night runs to Wawa for their Italian hoagies the best?!

  9. Lovely refresco Amy! We are having a break here with the heat, but I bet it will be back soon and your wooder ice will be great to keep it away πŸ˜€

  10. I’ve seen Wawa’s, but only in passing…I didn’t live around them. But Italian ices and little wooden spoons? Now THOSE I grew up on. This looks like a delicious trip down memory lane. Every weekend required a pizza for lunch with an italian ice for dessert.

  11. I remember those as a kid too! Still to this day I love wooden spoons with ice cream. I always ask for a sample when they have wooden tasting spoons at an ice cream shop and then keep it to eat my ice cream with! πŸ™‚

  12. I miss Wawa more than anything. I spent a few years outside of Philly (my family moved around a lot) when I was middle school aged, and rode my bike to the Wawa nearest my house almost every single day. It was the highlight of my rather narrow adolescent life. My favorite treat was the Chipwich, but Rosati’s was second.

  13. I feel healthier an cooler just reading your post here. This is perfect for us right now, it’s been kinda muggy here. Although I certainly shouldn’t complain because I know your NYC hear is waaay worse than ours.
    Still, I’m a baby when it comes to heat and your granita is purrrrfect!

  14. I like the sound of scrape style. I always forget about the ice cream container sitting on the counter so this would be great in a pinch.

  15. I doubt your husband was brought up on Granita!
    Today, it’s hot, hot, hot and so I will bookmark this recipe – to make very soon.
    All of the other postings are truly wonderful and it’s always a pleasure to visit your site.

  16. The Wawa references bring back memories. I attended college in Lancaster County, PA. The 24-hour convenience store in that area was Turkey Hill. Still, lots of Philadelphia-area students attended the school as well and they were always saying that back home it was all about the Wawa. I’d be like, “Wa-what?” (I’m from NY where it’s all about 7-11, so it was all weird to me.)

  17. I spent two years in Philly toiling away at Penn and I remember Wawa and water ice very, very fondly (along with cheese steaks, soft pretzels, and drinking beer at Khyber Pass). You’d buy something to drink at a convenience store in Philly and they’d give you a bag, some napkins and a straw along with the drink after you’d paid. Honest! God forbid you didn’t bag your own groceries, though.

  18. I grew up near Philly (in Delaware) and now live in Atlanta. You’re right about Wawa. They are the best convenience stores ever. They make great subs, too! The water ice/Italian ice was a great way to cool down in the summer time. Now you’ve got me getting all homesick…

  19. I had the priveledge of living in South Philly (on 18th St. above Snyder) back in the early 1980’s. Mr. Gatto owned a convenience store across the street and used to sell this “woooderice” – amazing stuff with bits of lemon peel and great (along with turning on the corner fire hydrant) for helping to cope with the stifling summer heat. After moving to the Pittsburgh area and getting married, my wife noticed my worn out, plastic, coffee cup – bearing the strange name Wawa. I related the many wonders of Wawa and laughed at the comparison with any other convenience store.
    My wife became a true believer when we stumbled upon a Wawa on our way to the Outer Banks. I remember drinking coffee, munching on soft pretzels and singing “we do it just a little bit better – Wawa. Thanks for the memories.

  20. If you are in the Philadelphia area, stop by Rosati’s factory in Clifton Heights. There you will find the original recipe BEFORE it has been frozen for retail sale. This is the absolute best Water Ice around-much creamier than the frozen with the Rosati flavors that are better than most competitors. Disclaimer:My great-grandfather, Michael Rosati was the founder of Rosati Water Ice:)

  21. hey! i know this is an older post, but i was stumbling through the archives and i had to comment! i’m from south jersey, and after a few weeks away in california… i an truly say God Bless Wawa. there really is nothing like it. mmmm.

  22. Hi, Scarlet! I really wish I knew how to make it! I don’t, sadly. My guess is they may use an ice cream churner-like system? Or they add air somehow because it definitely is lighter! Good luck and let me know if anyone let’s go of that secret recipe!

  23. Use the recipe as shown and tweek the flavor before freezing.
    We made this as kids (about 65 years ago) and we used an old fashion ice cream machine with the hand crank. we would put it in the can with the paddle and pack the outside of the can with crushed ice and rock salt to melt the ice as it was churning and you could tell when it was almost done because it got harder to turn the crank.
    Then you keep checking to see if its done…

  24. Wow, Rosati’ Water Ice. My first job was working that window at the Rosati Water Ice Factory in Clifton Heights, PA. It is amazing and I would love to figure out a way to get some here on the west coast. I have found that no one west of Philly seems to know what water ice is…sad. And WaWa…have to go into one on my trips back to Philly…really, a great store!

  25. Been out of Philly for about 15 yaers now.They think wooder ice
    here in louisville Ky is a Sno-cone. Or they would say you mean ice water??I do miss WAWa lived right around the corner from one in northeast Philly(Morrell Park ).I cant get the good Amoroso rolls down here,Tastycakes,water ice,Habbersett Scrapple.They don’t know what scrapple is!!!!Boy I do miss WaWa. The water is different here so you cant bake bread the same bread as back in Philly.They would really appreciate a good sandwich roll out here. My son in law just bought his own water ice machine so we have to figure out how to make it now.I really miss those cheesesteaks and charlies pizzas too..Wawa still sell those Jacks cigarettes,,Ha Ha. good ole days!

  26. I too am now sadly in tx where there are no wawas or water ice or any good bread for that matter. ahhhh the mecca that is wawa how i miss it so!! thanks for the recipe going to try it out and enlighten these southerners!! πŸ˜€

  27. I was born and raised in Clifton Heights, two blocks from Rosati’s – even poured india ink on the vice-principal’s head when I was a kid going to CHJHS -LOL! Rosati’s is still the best I’ve ever had, including Italian ices in Italy. We used to walk up to the sliding window at the corner of the building on Madison and Glenwood. What a lot of us loved doing was buying a soft pretzel to eat with the water ice and dip the pretzel in the water ice and scoop out some and take a bite. Awesome! I never cared much for the lemon flavor because I didn’t like the chunks of lemon in it, but loved the cherry, watermelon, chocolate – they were all good!

    I also remember seeing the tanker trucks pull up (looked just like gasoline trucks) full of syrup for the manufacturing process. I miss this town a lot, and if any of you ever go by there, DO NOT forget Walt’s Steaks for a cheese steak just a few blocks from Rosati’s on the Pike!

  28. I stumbled on your post trying to describe wooder ice to a friend in texas. I still live in Havertown – never moved more than 2 hours from Philly – but this was a great read nonetheless!

  29. I lived in South Philly most of my life, in July of 2009 I moved to Florida. I have searched and searched for a waterice stand. The closest one is 40 mins away, and it’s a Rita’s. I really miss Pop’s and Italiano’s. I’m gonna try this recipe, and hope for the best! πŸ™

    1. oh michele – i feel your pain (even living in Brooklyn) – it just ain’t the same! and i hate to disappoint but this recipe won’t even come CLOSE to Pop’s and Italianos. not at all. i wish that magic could be recreated but i haven’t figured it out yet. πŸ™

  30. Rita’s sucks and Rosati’s is THE BEST! Rita’s is so artificial and too strongly flavored – you need a big glass of water after eating that stuff. Rosati’s is flavorful but more ice than syrup and that’s what makes it refreshing. I’m taking my kids to Clifton Heights in late May to have them taste it. There used to be a Rosati’s cart inside Woolworth’s in Media, PA and they scooped it fresh and put it in a paper cone. My sister and I would always make my Grandmother take us there for a lemon water ice when we visited. There was nothing better on a Summer day.
    Wawa – the best convenience store around 1.) Great freshly made hoagies 2.) Great Cappucino (ok and coffee) 3.) really fresh milk from their own dairy 4.) those w/gas stations – cheapest gas anywhere around. Plus they carry tastykakes and Rosati water ice in the cups.

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