Pleasanton Rita’s Ice fails to please

Anumita Jain and Andrew Chuang


Situated in a cozy corner of Downtown Pleasanton, Rita’s Italian Ice blends in with the old western town aesthetic of its surroundings with its classic brick-walled exterior and patio-like outdoor seating area. However, its more modern, almost industrial interior contrasts with the antique quality of its exterior. A combination of pastel-colored walls, black and silver chairs, a black ceiling with exposed pipes and a sunroof, the interior of Rita’s in Pleasanton is best described as miscellaneous. Likely catering towards families with younger children, the eatery offered bright red plastic seating for some of its tinier customers and continued the theme with various other red accents scattered everywhere, from the door to the napkin dispensers. The most prominent feature of the Italian ice shop was the wall directly opposite from the door, filled with various words and phrases advertising happiness coming from eating the store’s Italian ice.


Although we did not require much service, apart from when we ordered our items, the staff was seen being incredibly friendly and welcoming with the rest of the patrons. From complying with requests for exasperating amounts of samples to helping its younger customers around the shop and communicating with them to keep them entertained, the staff of Rita’s proved to be extremely helpful, going beyond their job descriptions to make the eatery’s customers feel happy and welcome.


With its prices, an item at Rita’s is about the same price as a cup of boba.

Although certain aspects of the menu are constant, such as the form and sizes the ice is consumable in, the flavors for its main attraction, Italian ice, change every day. We were lucky enough to catch the store on a day when one of its most famous but rare flavors, Swedish Fish, made an appearance. Another not-as-common flavor that made an appearance was the strawberry-lemonade. The Italian ice is consumable in two main for plain or gelati, the seemingly disgusting combination of Italian ice and Rita’s famous frozen custard. Apart from those options exist the misto, or a blended combination of ice and custard, the blendini, like the misto but with toppings mixed in, drinkable custard, drinkable Italian ice, and custard-cookie sandwiches. The two of us decided to go for the gelati, but with different flavors of Italian ice.


Anumita: Gelati Swedish Fish flavored ice with vanilla custard (3/5 stars)

Rita’s is one of my favorite places to go whenever I visit New Jersey, so I am no stranger to its flavors. Swedish Fish has been a long time favorite of mine. This time, however, was my first time ordering my ice in gelati form and unfortunately, it did not live up to the hype. Aside from the fact that my Italian ice flavor choice did not pair perfectly with vanilla, the custard was too rich and filling in comparison to the soft and light Italian ice. The custard was not overly sweet, but tasted a lot like dairy (which seems like an obvious comment, considering it is frozen custard, but it tasted so much like dairy that I’m pretty sure I contemplated giving up dairy and going vegan for a minute or two while eating it) — not recommended for the lactose intolerant. While eating, I found myself finishing my frozen custard as quickly as possible so that I could enjoy eating only Italian ice. As a person who usually goes for ice cream or Italian ice as a light dessert to round off a meal, I found the custard to be a little bit too rich and filling for my taste. Perhaps the custard on its own would’ve tasted better, but because I was already anticipating the Swedish Fish flavored Italian ice that I had known and loved, the custard served as more of a disappointing opening act.

The Italian ice, however, was just as beautiful as I remembered it to be. When Rita’s calls a flavor “Swedish Fish,” it’s not lying— the taste resembled the candy almost exactly. The Italian ice was light and fluffy, serving as the perfect end to a heavy meal, providing flavor without making you feel like you’re about to burst. The only downside to the Italian ice (and this was by no fault of its own) was that there were bits of frozen custard that had gotten into the ice, making the experience of eating it not as enjoyable as usual.

Overall, although I thoroughly enjoyed the Italian ice I had grown up eating, I would not recommend going for the gelati option unless you are really hungry and are wise with your flavor choices. For those of you who do not particularly like the sight of bits of dairy floating around in bright red, slightly melted ice, I would recommend ordering either just Italian ice or just frozen custard.

One last note, while we were there, I noticed a promotion for an upcoming Peeps-flavored Italian ice to celebrate Easter or Spring or something like that. That in itself made me lose a little respect for the store.

Andrew: Gelati (ice and custard) strawberry lemonade  ice and vanilla custard (4/5 stars)

It set me back around four fifty, which was not bad since it was around the same price as a cup of boba from T4.

The custard on my ice did not look as good as anticipated. The swirls were asymmetrical and looked as if it was lackadaisically placed on the faded-red ice. Even I could do better at the self-serve soft serve machine at Sweet Tomatoes. By itself, however, the custard made up for its lackluster presentation. It was rich with a sweet dairy aftertaste and was very filling. The lemonade ice had a fruity burst with a slightly sour aftertaste that tingled in my mouth and was sweeter than I expected it to be. Both, when consumed together, complemented each other; the ice’s tangy burst was followed by a more soothing and creamy aftertaste from the custard.

The regular sized ice I ordered was very filling and is perfect for an afternoon snack.


As mentioned before, make sure you are careful in choosing your flavors if you decide to go with the gelati option. Additionally, make sure you have some space in your stomach if you order any item on the menu that has frozen custard in it— it is surprisingly filling— even more so than regular ice cream or frozen yogurt.