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Readers voice their choice for the Chicago area’s best ice cream

Marquase Gav18 Chicago Heights enjoys raspberry lemonade Italian ice Zarlengo's Italian Ice   Gelato.  |  Brett Roseman~Sun-Times

Marquase Gavin, 18, of Chicago Heights, enjoys a raspberry lemonade Italian ice at Zarlengo's Italian Ice & Gelato. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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THE BEST ICE CREAM IN THE CHICAGO AREA

Readers, you nominated your favorites and for one week, you voted for whom you rank as the best ice cream in the Chicago area.

The winner? Zarlengo’s Italian Ice & Gelato, 257 W. Joe Orr Rd., Chicago Heights, 708-754-9080, zarlengositalianice.com.

Since 1983, the Zarlengo family has served Chicago Heights with unique recipes and fresh ingredients.

With more than 40 flavors of handmade frozen treats all produced in-house, the family — which makes up the majority of the restaurant’s staff — stays busy churning out quality treats to loyal customers.

“It’s hard, but it’s a labor of love,” said Todd Zarlengo, 25, a manager at the restaurant.

Zarlengo and his siblings, who grew up in the business founded by their father and grandparents, have since become involved in its operation, from business planning to the creation of gourmet menu items, while staying true to family traditions.

“The way we produce our products hasn’t changed,” Zarlengo said. “Everything is still made from scratch and with small batches. There’s an emphasis on quality — if we wouldn’t eat it, we wouldn’t serve it, basically.”

What began as a hamburgers and hot dogs restaurant has since become a neighborhood staple specializing in frozen desserts.

According to Zarlengo, much of the restaurant’s success is due to an insistence on fresh, homemade products, as well as dedicated support from customers.

“We want to thank everyone who voted for us,” he said. “They’re why we do what we do. We wouldn’t do this if it weren’t for them.”

- Darryl Holliday

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Updated: May 9, 2012 9:37AM



Summer and ice cream are two things that were always meant to go together.

From favorite flavors to the way it’s served — cups, cones, bowls, fountain glasses and more — SouthtownStar readers have a soft-serve spot in their hearts for specific ice cream emporiums.

We asked our readers including those from our sister Sun-Times Media newspapers to nominate their favorite ice cream places.

And from those 68 nominees, readers cast their votes for the best ice cream in the Chicago area.

So here’s your winner along with the rest of the top 10.

♦♦♦

It seems that ice cream has been destined for greatness in the United States ever since the first cow arrived in 1611.

As time went on, the sweet, frozen treat has become one of the most popular desserts in the country.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed July National Ice Cream Month. And July 17 is officially National Ice Cream Day.

Chances are high that you have ice cream in your home right now, as more than 90 percent of U.S. homes purchase the frozen snack — fueling an industry that has stayed mostly stable for decades.

According to the most recent statistics from the International Dairy Foods Association, 920 million gallons of regular ice cream were produced in the United States in 2009.

Illinois — which has produced its fair share of historical ice cream lore including claims that Evanston is the city where the ice cream sundae originated — is the ninth-leading producer of ice cream and related products nationally at 36 million gallons in 2009.

Though vanilla — with nearly 28 percent of the market — is still far and away the favorite flavor for ice cream among U.S. residents, chocolate has been steadily gaining on the longtime leader, most recently topping at 14.3 percent.

Strawberry, chocolate chip and butter pecan round out the top five.

But according to Peggy Armstrong, vice president of communications for the IDFA, vanilla’s lead is easily explained.

“It’s that you can use it for so many things,” she said. “It just goes good with everything.”

Armstrong also noted that the latest trends in ice cream flavorse seem to be leaning in increasingly experimental directions.

As new technologies create opportunities, companies are responding with flavors that incorporate salt, as well as flavors that “remind people of other things,” she said, such as cake, oatmeal and pie-flavored ice cream.

Pie, typically regarded as America’s favorite dessert, may actually be in danger of losing that coveted sweet treat status.

THE TOP 10

1. ZARLENGO’S ITALIAN ICE & GELATO, 257 W. Joe Orr Rd., Chicago Heights, zarlengositalianice.com

2. DUFF’S DOGS, 4835 N. Austin Ave., Chicago, (773) 628-7454, duffsdogs.com

3. SCOOTER’S FROZEN CUSTARD, 1658 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, (773) 244-6415, scootersfrozencustard.com

4. THE BROWN COW ICE CREAM PARLOR, 7347 W. Madison St., Forest Park, (708) 366-7970, browncowicecream.com

5. ORIGINAL RAINBOW CONE, 9233 S. Western Ave., Chicago, (773) 238-7075, www.rainbowcone.com

6. DAIRY BAR, 1015 Harlem Ave., Glenview, (847) 724-2029

7. CAPANNARI ICE CREAM, 10 S. Pine St., Mount Prospect, (847) 392-2277, capannaris.com

8. BLACK DOG GELATO, 859 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, (773) 235-3116, blackdogchicago.com

9. SHAWN MICHELLE’S, 11925 Western Ave., Blue Island, (708) 239-1380, shawnmichelles.com

10. 2 SISTERS FROZEN CUSTARD, 4734 147th St., Midlothian, (708) 385-0574, 2sistersfrozencustard.com



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