Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lemon Ice King of Corona

Saying goodbye to summer, let's take a visit to the The Lemon Ice King of Corona.

But first, why is Danny "Shake Shack" Meyer going to be serving up treats at the new Mets stadium (I can hardly utter "Citi[bank] Field") instead of a local Queens legend like Pete Benfaremo? The stadium is said to be negotiating with notable locals, reports Gothamist, and they vote for Benfaremo too. Someone start a petition.

Enough about the stadium's luxury Sterling options, it doesn't get more artisanal, in the true sense of the word (made by a skilled manual worker), than Benfaremo's Italian ice. Since 1944, on days sunny or snowy, they've been serving ices the old-fashioned way. The city has changed quite a bit since then, and Benfaremo's has evolved along with it, without losing its classic touch.

In a short interview on WNYC, on the occasion of his induction into the City Lore Peoples Hall of Fame, Mr. Benfaremo explains why he has a rule against mixing flavors. It has to do with their use of a special shovel, rather than a scooper (Bakerina has a shot).

He also recalls that when the neighborhood was predominantly Italian and Jewish, the most popular flavors were the citruses, like lemon and orange. With a larger Latino population, they expanded into tropicals, like pina colada and mango. Now they have over 35 flavors. Who said all change to the city is bad?


Lidian said...

I used to love an Italian ice place like this (but with way fewer flavors) on 82nd St and 2nd Ave back in the early 70s - went there every day after school.

Anonymous said...

The ice had melted.

Jill said...

When I was a kid it was a very special treat to get ices from Lemon Ice King. I still get there whenever I can. However, you cannot write this article without noting the incredible Italian restaurant across the street, Parkview, which is filled with tables of men wearing a lot of jewelry, and a room upstairs devoted to Marilyn Monroe.

So, now you have two reasons to visit Corona and they are right next to each other!

L'Emmerdeur said...

Oh, Jeremiah, we all know that poor folks' treats will attract poor folks, and we can't have that, now, can we?

And we also know that such colorful treats attract, shall we say, colorful crowds, and what's the point of charging ever-higher prices to keep away the riff-raff if we are going to give mixed signals by offering their messy, pedestrian fare.

The only colorful folks welcome in the new park should be on the field, and they're well-payed colorful folk, so they're all right by us, in small numbers.

That said, I remove my tongue from my cheek to say that I do like Shake Shack's food, but if someone told me I had to choose between that and Aramark junk after paying my left testicle to see a game*, I'd most likely beat them over the head with an apropos wooden bat.

* the fact that I don't like watching sports is irrelevant

Signed D.C. said...

I grew up right around the corner from there on 52nd Avenue, and I am of Italian descent, but somehow I never really developed a taste for the stuff and never understood folks coming from miles around to line up for it. Too sticky, melts too fast in the heat--ice cream is a lot more substantial and satisfying. But hey, it was a good landmark--I never had to give elaborate directions to anyone picking me up, they knew right where to go.

Jeremiah Moss said...

jill, parkview sounds heavenly. definitely a reason to return to corona.

ChickenUnderwear said...

It is also around the corner from the NYC Hall of Science. I visited both a few weeks ago with my kids


eeps. said...

i grew up down the street from that place and passed by it recently on the bus and saw there's a 7-11 across the street? my brother wondered if the location was supposed to be a slushy challenge to the ice king.
also, i'm concerned i haven't seen the old italian men playing bocci in the park across the way in awhile. i hope they're not dying off just yet, they're a hard generation to replace.