Di Cosmo’s Italian Ice was started in 1915 by Giovanni and Caterina Di Cosmo. They journeyed from Vallatta, Italy to Ellis Island to Elizabeth New Jersey where they owned and operated a small grocery store. One long hot summer, Caterina reminisced about her home and in particular, the foods and she missed, so she decided to make a desert similar to the granita of her childhood.
She made only lemon, and her recipe was an immediate success. Making the dessert by hand during the hot summer months was painstaking labor of love. Over time the “lemon Ice” became increasingly popular, and gradually became the focus of their business.
In 1938, Alfred Di Cosmo, son of Giovanni and Caterina, married Agnes. She continued the family tradition under the watchful eye of her mother-in-law, mixing and making the ices at the (by now) well-known spot in the Peterstown section of Elizabeth. Know as “the Lemon Ice Lady,” Agnes was very friendly, treating her customers like family. She created variations of Caterina’s recipes to expand the flavor offerings. She started with orange, then orange-pineapple. Before long, the list of flavors grew, each made with real fruit and fruit juices.
Alfred and Agnes’ son John Di Cosmo and his wife, Nancy, continue the tradition by making Di Cosmo’s Italian Ice at the same location, and very little has changed. They have modernized the manufacturing process, it’s no longer a hand cranked mechanism, but they still use the same recipes, fresh and natural ingredients and make it fresh daily in small batches. They have created several new tropical flavors to quench the palates of the local community.
Today, John and Nancy's daughter, Eileen is working with them as the business continues to grow.