Local Treasure: Gina's Italian Ice

So homey, neighborhood and real

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By David Hammond

“Worst summer yet,” Gina said smiling.

It was the first of July, a day that was supposed to break records with 100 degree temperatures (very good for the Italian ice business).  As it turned out, the day was grey and windy, and I noticed as I biked over, almost chilly.

By way of explanation for her judgment of “worst summer,” Gina added, “The weather, the construction,” though she was still smiling as she nodded at a group of construction workers leisurely wandering around their equipment on Roosevelt Road.

We’ve been going to Gina’s since we moved to Oak Park in the early 1980s.

Gina’s is one of those little places that feels so homey, neighborhood and real. It’s unlikely to make anyone rich, but it’s very likely to make a lot of people happy.

On the walls inside Gina’s are Wednesday Journal articles going back to Bruce Kraig’s early appreciation of the place in 1983.

Just about every vertical surface is covered with pictures of children, families, young couples in love, politicians (like Governor Pat Quinn, posing in several shots with Gina), cops and others who’ve come to Gina’s over the years for her ice cream and ices.

Gina no longer makes the ice cream, but they still make the ices daily, and four or them – cantaloupe, lemon, red raspberry and watermelon – use natural flavors. I usually mix two of these in a small cup for $1.75: quite satisfying.

Lemon ice outsells all others 10 to 1, and it’s no mystery why: the big hunks of semi-frozen fruit, the clean unadulterated citrus taste, and the dialed-down sweetness make this one of the best summer treats in the village.

Gina’s has been open 34 years, and Gina – “Gina, the original,” she assured me when we spoke – is still smiling, a person who clearly loves her work and has found her place. A local treasure.

Reader Comments

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David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 3:42 PM

My affection for this place brings to mind Algren's line: "Yet once you've come to be part of this particular patch [Chicago], you'll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real." From Chicago: City on the Make (1951)

Carrie from Oak Park  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 3:27 PM

There may be better Italian Ice (Johnnie's, for instance) but we like the atmosphere and people at Gina's. It's a summertime family tradition to enjoy our ices while admiring the window display at Horribles.

Steve  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 9:32 AM

Gina's seems like a nice business. I have gone there a couple of times to satisfy my love of Italian Ice. Sorry to poo-poo it, but Gina's is not my favorite. Wish I liked it more, so we could support a local business. My fav is Lezza's from Bellwood.

B  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 8:53 PM

This place is the best- forget about the rest!!!

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