by Corinne Ramey
For Inwood residents, the Italian ices at Grandpa’s Brick Oven Pizza, on Broadway near Isham Street, are a rite of summer. When the ice freezer is rolled out to the sidewalk and loaded with flavors, including lemon, cherry, chocolate and mango, it’s a sure sign that summer has arrived.
But these aren’t just ordinary Italian ices. The ices come from the Lemon Ice King of Corona, a family-owned business in Queens that has repeatedly been lauded with high ratings from Zagat, New York Magazine, Yelp and other eating guides. According to Lemon Ice King owner Mike Zampino, Grandpa’s Pizza is the only location that sells the ices in Northern Manhattan. Other Manhattan locations include 41st Street in Midtown, and Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.
Grandpa’s Pizza has been serving the ices for the past four years, said employee Angel Salazar. Inwood-resident Salazar, 32, has been working for the pizza store for five and half years, since it first opened, he said. Serving ices is one of his favorite jobs at the store, he said.
“You get fresh air out here, and people love them,” he said.
The most popular flavor, Salazar said, is lemon, followed by cherry and coconut. The least popular are mango and strawberry. The ices come in only one size, in a white paper cup, and cost $1.50.
The Italian ices have been a Corona tradition for the past 60 years, according to the Lemon Ice King Web site, thelemonicekingofcorona.com. The ices were started by Nicola Benfaremo, and later turned gourmet by son Peter Benfaremo, who squeezed pieces of real fruit into each flavor. Today, the flavors in Corona include not only basics, but inventive flavors like peanut butter, rum raisin, and mint chocolate chip.
“It may sound braggadocious, but nobody really challenges the Benfaremo family for the crown as the king of lemon and every other kind of Italian ice in the entire city, let alone Corona,” reads the New York Magazine review of the Lemon Ice King. On Zagat’s list of New York City’s best frozen yogurt, the Lemon Ice King comes out number one, far ahead of chains like Pinkberry and Red Mango.
Although Grandpa’s only stocks the standard flavors, local reviews were just as enthusiastic.
“I like them because they’re made from real fruit,” said Diana Salazar, 9, whose favorite flavor is cherry. Diana, along with her two siblings, had come to visit her father, Angel.
Diana’s mother, Cristina Salazar, 28, approved of the ingredients. “They’re made from water, not milk, so they’re more healthy and low-fat,” she said. “And they’re so refreshing!”
William O’Donnell, who lives in Inwood and works in communications, was also a fan of the chunks of real fruit in the ices. “They’re good, and they’re not watered down,” said O’Donnell, 37. “And the strawberry has small strawberry slices.”
Angel Salazar said that the high quality ices go well with the store’s name.
“Because when you go see your grandfather he takes care of you and gives you the best,” he said.
Grandpa’s Brick Oven Pizza
Italian ice, $1.50