Rita’s: A great way to beat the heat!

Rita’s: A great way to beat the heat!

There is one very positive side to the high temperatures this week: It’s perfect weather for frozen deliciousness from Rita’s of Scripps Ranch.

Order an Italian ice or a frozen custard, take it outside and sit in the blazing sun. It won’t matter. The frozen mixture will cool your core. It’s an enjoyable way to become oblivious to the heat. You might get a little bit of brain freeze, but that will go away quickly.

Rita’s, located at 10585 Scripps Poway Parkway in Scripps Ranch Marketplace Shopping Center, is owned by Denise Escola who took over the franchise in October 2016, but one would think she has been involved in the company for years. She is a Rita’s expert, and swiftly describes every item on the menu.

Rita’s of Scripps Ranch Owner Denise Escola is ready to suggest delicious items and explain all the tasty frozen products. (photo by John Gregory)

“Every day we make fresh Italian ices. We churn them fresh every day,” Escola said. “We have a 36-hour freshness policy on our Italian ices.”

Italian ice is one of the main items from Rita’s, and there are about 10 flavors to choose from each day. They are similar to a thick, high quality slushy. The most popular flavors at the Scripps Ranch Rita’s are mango and cotton candy. Yes, cotton candy Italian ice. Cherry is also popular, Escola reported.

The frozen custards are also fresh.

“They are really nice and creamy and delicious out of the soft serve machine,” she said. “San Diego was the introductory market for our handcrafted custard where we take the basis of the vanilla and chocolate that go into the machines, we add more flavors and the toppings and churn them here in-house. So, they are all handmade here.”

Rita’s also offers milkshakes that are pretty special, Escola said.

“We do make milkshakes that area amazing … We are taking custard and adding flavorings and syrups and toppings and they are really good,” she explained.

But there is another type of shake: “There’s also the ‘Misto Shakes,'” she said. “We take one of our ices and we use some of our liquid custard before it’s frozen. So, it’s kind of like a smoothie. It’s just the ice and a little bit of custard.”

Rita’s also carries all-natural ices and the shop attempts to carry one all-natural each day. In addition, Rita’s has sugar-free versions sweetened with Splenda.

“The concentrate we use has no high-fructose corn syrup. There’s no artificial color. There are no artificial additives,” Escola said. “It is all-natural, almost like a fruit nectar. Then we add fresh fruit into it.”

Over all these options, there is one blended concoction that reigns supreme.

“The number one selling product is our ‘Gelati,'” she said. “We take a little bit of custard at the bottom of the cup, add one of the Italian ices and then a nice, delicious twist of custard on top. It is a fabulous treat.”

One would think that by now every kid in the northeastern quadrant of San Diego would know and crave the delicious frozen treasures served at Rita’s, but there still might be a few who are unaware.

“Just getting the community to know that I am here is my basic goal right now,” Escola said. “The kids have learned and are learning.”

In California, the Rita’s franchises are considered first generation franchises because they are introducing the products to the populace, she explained. By contrast, Rita’s is well-known on the East Coast. Everyone knows about it there and it has become part of the culture, much like In ‘n Out Burger franchises here in California, she said.

Rita’s was founded in Philadelphia in 1984 by a retired firefighter, Escola said. He started making Italian ice and selling it from his front porch. It carried into frozen custards. Rita’s grew and soon became a popular treat in that part of the country.

About a year-and a-half ago a friend took Escola to a Rita’s for her first visit.

“I absolutely fell in love with the product: The uniqueness of it, the variety of treats that you could get, the variety of flavors and combinations,” she explained. “I just thought it was a wonderful concept and so I looked into it and proceeded to buy one.”

Escola continues to promote her Rita’s franchise and has a philosophy of involvement with the community in which her customers reside, including sponsoring sports teams and involvement with special school activities. Rita’s Scripps Ranch offers a 10 percent “jersey discount” when young athletes visit the shop after their games dressed in their uniforms.

This summer, Rita’s has a program called “Read with Rita’s.” Kids up to 12 years of age can come in to get a reading card so their parents can track what they are reading and for how long. When the child reaches 120 minutes of reading time, they get a kids’ treat from Rita’s.

“It’s a really nice way to help get the kids continue reading through the summer,” Escola said.


If you have a news tip or idea for a story, contact John Gregory:

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