Rita’s Serving up East Coast Treat

If you moved to Las Vegas from somewhere else (and odds are that you did), you’re probably craving a taste of home that you can’t get here. Sure, there are plenty of Philadelphia cheese steak and Chicago hot dog places around town, but it’s never quite like home. For me, it’s “real” Italian bread. To someone not from Atlantic City, that might not be a big deal. But they didn’t grow up eating loaves that were delivered to stores each day from the Formica and Rando bakeries. You just can’t get it here; people who say they know tell me that it’s the water. I can’t describe the purity of South Jersey water (laugh all you want, but it’s true) as well as John McPhee, but I believe them.

Water’s also the primary ingredient—in its frozen form—of a summer treat that has been absent from Las Vegas for too long: water ice. Also called Italian ice, it’s an unforgettable part of life for most Northeasters. Memorial Day meant the beaches opening, the return of the shoobies (like swallows at Capistrano, but causing more traffic problems), and water ice making your fingers sticky.

So there’s a certain section of the Valley’s population who would line up for water ice. And, it’s safe to say, they would wait in line—even in the Vegas sun—for free water ice. That’s just what they can get July 3 if they stop by the grand opening of Rita’s Green Valley at 693 N. Stephanie St.

Rita’s Italian Ice started out in Bensalem, Pa., in 1984, and has grown since into a franchise with more than 500 stores, mostly across the Northeast. Its Henderson outpost, the first of what may be several for the Valley, is owned by Robin and Irving Dobbs, a husband-and-wife team for whom this week is the culmination of three years of work.

“It’s surreal, finally seeing it open,” Robin said yesterday during a special friends and family sneak preview.

She and Irving started lobbying Rita’s for a franchise when they first moved out to Las Vegas from the New York area, but the company wasn’t ready to extend its supply lines then. Now, it’s making a concerted push into the Southwest, with five stores in Arizona.

To introduce themselves to Las Vegas, Robin, Irving, and their employees—many of them Basic and Green Valley high school students and recent graduates—are offering unlimited ices, absolutely free, on July 3.

As for me, I’ll just be glad to know I don’t have to fly 2,500 miles to get a water ice. Now, if someone could just work on the Italian bread.