It’s summer, which means it’s time to dip a plastic spoon into a tall cup of sweet and frosty water ice.

The Italian dessert is a tradition in itself within the Philadelphia region, where its roots are traced back to Italian families who brought the recipe with them when they moved from Italy. While it’s similar to shaved ice and Italian ice, water ice is different. It’s creamier than shaved ice yet icier than Italian ice. And just three ingredients are needed to make the classic recipe: water, sugar, and fruit.

Whether you’re craving a classic cherry cup, a gelati (which combines layers of water ice with ice cream), or a combination of water ice flavors in one cup, there are many, many places for excellent water ice in Philly and the surrounding towns.

Here’s a guide to the best water (wooder) ice in Philly.

How we choose our best lists
What makes something the best? Our recommendations are based on our reporters' deep regional knowledge and advice from local experts. We also strive to represent the geographic and cultural diversity of the city and region. Spot an error or omission? Email us at phillytips@inquirer.com

John’s Water Ice

There’s no artificial syrup or fake flavors in the water ice at this Christian St. water ice institution, which has been serving cold cups of frozen treats since 1945. Staple flavors include cherry, lemon, pineapple, and chocolate, with special announced-on-Instagram flavors (mango, honeydew, peach) rotating week by week.

📍 701 Christian St., 🌐 johnswaterice.com, 📷 @johnswaterice

Tranzilli’s Real Italian Water Ice

Italian immigrants Nobile and Olimpia Tranzilli opened Germantown’s Tranzilli’s Real Italian Water Ice in 1969, and the family still runs the wholesale and scoop shop today. It’s loved by locals for its large menu with more than 20 water ice flavors, including margarita, mocha, blueberry, lemon, tangerine, and cotton candy.

📍 5901 Belfield Ave., 🌐 tranzillis.com, 📷 @tranzillis

Pop’s Homemade Italian Ice

Pop’s started as a small pushcart selling water ice to the South Philadelphia neighborhood back in 1932. Today, there are two locations of this beloved frozen treat shop: one on Oregon Ave. in South Philly and one on W. Eagle Ave. in Havertown.

📍 1337 W. Oregon Ave. and 150 W. Eagle Rd., Havertown, 🌐 popsice.com, 📷 @pops_waterice

Dre’s Water Ice and Ice Cream

There are a number of ways to get Dre’s Water Ice and Ice Cream, a super-popular water ice maker that serves the delicacy in flavors like mango and passionfruit throughout Philadelphia, in addition to along the Eastern seaboard. Dre’s Water Ice is available daily at summertime pop-ups throughout the city. This summer, its pushcarts and ice cream truck will be at LOVE Park, Dilworth Park, Sister Cities Park, and on Boathouse Row. Dre’s can also be delivered locally and shipped throughout the region. Pushcart and truck locations are shared on Dre’s Instagram.

📍 Daily in the summer at LOVE Park, Dilworth Park, Sister Cities Park, and on Boathouse Row., 🌐 dresicecream.com, 📷 @dreswaterice

D’Emilio’s Old World Ice Treats

Chris D’Emilio of East Passyunk Ave.’s D’Emilio’s Old World Ice Treats learned how to make his version of water ice from his grandmother. On the D’Emilio’s menu, it’s called sorbetto, which is what his grandmom called it. His sorbetto is a delicious mix between gelato (texture-wise) and water ice (flavor-wise), and he serves four to seven varieties a day in flavor-packed blends like peach-raspberry-lemonade and pineapple-orange-guava. His menu changes daily and is announced on Instagram and Facebook at noon.

📍 1928 E. Passyunk Ave., 📷 @oldworldicetreats

Siddiq’s Water Ice

What started as a food cart at Temple University is now a two-shop water ice operation with locations in West Philly and Chester. Siddiq Moore’s namesake store serves water ice steeped in fruit, creating a flavor-forward, fresh taste in varieties like mango-berry, white grape, and cantaloupe.

📍 264 S. 60th St. and 720 W. Ninth St., Chester, 🌐 siddiqswaterice.com, 📷 @siddiqswaterice

Fred’s Water Ice

Walk up to the window at Fred’s Water Ice to place your order for a fruity cup of water ice, available in flavors like Swedish fish, kiwi strawberry, coconut cream, and peach. Many choose to layer their water ice at this West Philly establishment (which means you get to order two flavors at once) or order a gelati (water ice layered with ice cream).

📍 5343 Chester Ave., 🌐 fredswaterice.com

Jimmy’s Water Ice

The walk-up window at Jimmy’s Water Ice at Wolf and Front Sts. in South Philly is the key to a menu of ice treats. Water ice comes in popular flavors like chocolate, cherry, and vanilla fudge. And if your water ice isn’t Philly enough for you, Jimmy’s also sells soft pretzels.

📍 2251 S. Front St., 🌐 restaurantji.com

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