Every time I visit a new city, I spend a few days rethinking my entire future. “What if I lived HERE,” I mutter, trawling Zillow for apartments in San Francisco or Brooklyn or Philly or Asheville. Right now, Providence is the object of my obsession—largely thanks to Del’s, an iconic Rhode Island frozen lemonade brand that’s kept me salivating long after my recent vacation to the shore.
Last week, my boyfriend and I set out for a tiny beachside town on the Rhode Island shore. En route, I got a message from a Rhode Island–born friend.
“I don’t care what you do,” she said, “as long as you get yourself a Del’s.”
A cursory Twitter search confirmed: Del’s is a Rhode Island staple. “Did I even go to Rhode Island if I didn’t have a Del’s?” tweeted one fan. Another posted an isochrone map showing the estimated drive time to a Del’s location from anywhere in Rhode Island. People go nuts for this stuff, which looks like a pretty straightforward frozen lemonade served out of a waxed paper cup.
This is no ordinary frozen lemonade.
Per the brand’s website, Del’s uses fresh-squeezed lemons to achieve a gently sweet, tangy product. You know that acrid bite you get with artificially lemon-flavored products like frozen Minute Maid? Del’s doesn’t have that. Instead, Del’s has a light, refreshing flavor reminiscent of an old-school lemonade stand. It tastes like the real thing without a hint of sickly-sweet concentrate. It’s also softer and fluffier than a water ice, yielding gently to even the flimsiest of plastic spoons. Del’s tastes like a Rhode Island summer: carefree, nostalgic, and authentic as it gets.
The family behind the brand has had years of practice, ever since “Great Grandfather DeLucia” developed the recipe in 1840 in Naples, Italy, by hauling snow into nearby caves and flavoring it with lemon and sugar. The patriarch’s son, Franco DeLucia, then brought his father’s frozen lemonade recipe to the U.S. at the turn of the century. He passed the recipe on to his son, Angelo DeLucia, who perfected the process. Finally, in 1948, Del’s Frozen Lemonade was born in Cranston, Rhode Island, where the brand is still based today.
I left Rhode Island a week ago, but I can’t seem to get Del’s out of my head. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of options short of bidding on Providence real estate. The Del’s location map shows the majority of Del’s franchises scattered throughout Rhode Island and the surrounding states, although there is one outpost in Las Vegas and a few in the Carolinas. I could always order Del’s mix online, but I seem to have misplaced my commercial-grade ice shaver. Ah, well. My proximity to Del’s was fleeting, just like my time away from email. But I needn’t fret—we’ll always have Rhode Island.