You don’t need to travel far to find a Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices location. A staple of any Long Island summer, the cold treats at Ralph’s are the perfect way to cool down at the end of the day.
As most great things do, Long Island’s most classic summer tradition started with a dream. Ralph Silvestro came from Italy to the United States in search of a better life. After struggling to find an occupation that would suit him, he finally made his living making homemade lemon and orange ices and, along with ice cream, began selling it on a truck in 1928. Using only fresh fruit and the best ingredients he could get his hands on, the Italian entrepreneur made his products in a garage, loaded them onto his truck and drove through the streets delighting neighborhood folks of all ages.
He continued operating out of his garage and truck until 1949 when he opened his own storefront in the Port Richmond section of Staten Island. Now able to make his famous cold desserts from the back of his own store and sell them in the front, Silvestro was able to grow his namesake brand and serve more people than ever before.
Around 1965, Silvestro’s two daughters, Lucile and Elise, took over—effectively turning Ralph’s into a full-fledged family-owned operation with Silvestro’s five grandsons getting involved as well.
Two decades after Silvestro’s daughters took the helm, the brand evolved into a small wholesale business, and by 1989, three of the grandsons, Larry, John and Michael, worked to expand the company and took over for Lucile and Elise in 1996.
What started for the grandson trio as selling to local pizza shops expanded into distributing to any customer “interested in serving a product that was made with only the finest and freshest ingredients,” explained Larry. By 2001, the wholesale operation became a franchise with locations spread across New Jersey, the five boroughs and, of course, Long Island.
“I believe the ingredients that we use make our product stand alone in our category, and the fact that our high regard for using quality products makes our product so desirable,” said Larry, who, while enjoys sampling Ralph’s abundance of flavors across their wide selection of product types, still opts to go for a scoop of classic vanilla ice cream. “To carry on [my grandfather’s] tradition into a third generation, after his two daughters operated the store, is truly an honor.”
Although new flavors and new items are constantly being introduced, Silvestro’s classic lemon and orange ices are still available with their original, unchanged recipes.
During your next trip to Ralph’s, consider trying something new. After almost a century of business, the dessert brand has grown to create more than 100 flavors across nearly a dozen different product types—no doubt including something sure to please your taste buds.
The product that started it all. The water ices at Ralph’s are pure, melt-in-your-mouth, flavorful goodness. Try the lemon and you’ll understand why Silvestro’s original cold treat is so famous. For a throwback to your childhood, try the rainbow—that classic blend of red, white and blue you know so well. Get a taste of the blue Hawaii if you’re in the mood for a tropical escape; it’s subtly tangy and oh so delicious.
A classic summer food, the watermelon has pinpointed flavor that makes it truly like eating an actual watermelon. Some flavors, like peach and the sour cherry (watch out—this really is sour) even have real fruit chunks mixed in for a more textured take on an otherwise relatively smooth ice formula.
Unlike the water ices, which are your classic, slightly rough icy treats, the creme ices have an interesting texture that’ll have you coming back for more. Imagine mixing a water ice and soft-serve. It sounds like a strange combination, but it comes together quite nicely to create a thin, ice-like texture that has the slight creaminess of a soft-serve.
Go for the vanilla, it’s a delicious classic that’s sure to please, but watch out for the seemingly endless list of adventurous flavors the creme ices come in, including cannoli, apple crumb, jelly ring, Linzer tart and strawberry cheesecake.
The sundaes at Ralph’s are to die for. Piled high with whipped cream, each sundae, like the chocolate chip cookie, espresso bean and marshmallow crunch sundaes, have toppings on toppings and, despite the small looking cup they come in, include enough product to fill you up like it was a full-on meal.
For the chocolate lover, the hot fudge brownie sundae is worth waiting the few minutes it takes to make. Vanilla soft-serve is sandwiched between layers and layers of real brownie, chocolate chips and gooey hot fudge.
To find your local Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices location, visit www.ralphsices.com/store-locator.