Comparing Rockville's Carmen's Italian Ice to the New Jersey-based chain Rita's is no stretch. They both serve:
- Jersey-style Italian ice, so finely cut that there's no crunch or even chewing required. The cold just slides down your throat. You may need to chew certain flavors, though, because some of them contain bits and chunks of actual fruit!
- frozen custard from a soft-serve machine. It is denser, richer and creamier than soft-serve ice cream.
- a concoction called a gelati (not to be confused with gelati, the plural of the Italian word gelato) which sandwiches Italian ice between a bottom and top layer of frozen custard. The combination of frozen custard and Italian ice doesn't intuitively make sense on paper, but in practice is a delicacy.
But Carmen's sets itself apart in a few important ways:
- The long list of ice flavors they have available. Their website lists sixty-three varieties and, as the picture at the top shows, they had twenty-six when I visited. Though Rita's lists more on their website, your average franchise only has maybe eight to sixteen flavors available.
- A longer list of frozen custard flavors they rotate between--eleven--as compared to Rita's six.
- A wider and more interesting range of flavor types than Rita's, from horchata (sadly, not featured the day I went), to sour snozzberry, to strawberry malt, to coconut (with real coconut in it), to spicy mango and more.
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Another fine option for frozen dessert in Rockville is York Castle Caribbean Ice Cream.