Rita's ice cream
Food & Drink

Cool Treats at Rita’s

Scotts Valley spot offers a different kind of frozen dessert

Lisa Rasmussen opened the first Rita’s in Santa Cruz County. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER

Ice cream and froyo have long dominated the frozen dessert market, but at Rita’s of Scotts Valley, you can try Italian ice and frozen custard.

Rita’s is a popular chain on the East Coast, and Lisa Rasmussen opened the first one in Santa Cruz County last year. We spoke with Rasmussen to learn about Rita’s new line of donuts, and just what, exactly, a Gelati is.

You do a bit of a different take on frozen treats.

LISA RASMUSSEN: Our Italian ice is made without dairy. We have cotton candy flavor, there’s sour patch kids, root beer. We have ones that we actually pop fresh fruit into once they come out of the machine. We have mango, strawberry, pineapple, orange. We do have a few we put a dairy mix into, which gives it more of that ice cream feel. Cookies ’n’ Cream is one. That’s one aspect, then we have frozen custard.

What exactly is frozen custard?

Think of high-premium ice cream. It looks like soft serve, but it’s much richer, much creamier, much better tasting. It stays colder longer than a traditional ice cream because it doesn’t melt quickly. I have a machine that can bring out and infuse eight different flavors, and then I have the vanilla, chocolate and the classic twist.

What kind of donuts are selling?

It’s a standard vanilla cake donut. They are made fresh daily in the back. You can top them with any topping we have in the store. We do maple bacon, fruity pebbles,  jolly rancher toppings. We have a lot of toppings.

How many flavors of Italian ice do you have?

We can make more than 80 different flavors. We only carry 12. We’ll always carry cotton candy and mango, because those are just staples. Of the 80 flavors that Rita’s has, I can change them daily. You can combine our ice and our custard to get what we call a gelati. You take a layer of custard at the bottom, your choice of an ice flavor, and top it with a swirl of custard. It’s an experience. People love it. You can get a blendini, a mixture of custard, your choice of a topping, and ice. We blend it together so it’s kind of a chunky dessert. Another one is a misto, which is a little bit of liquid custard and ice, and we blend that up into more of a frothy drink.

222 Mt Hermon Road, Scotts Valley. 431-8528.

Contributor at Good Times |

Aaron is a hard-working freelance writer with a focus on music, art, food, culture and travel. In addition to Good Times, he's a regular contributor to Sacramento News & Review, VIA Magazine and Playboy. When he's not working, he's either backpacking, arguing about music or working on his book about ska. One thing's for sure—he knows more about ska than you.

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