Earlier this year, a small family-run business in Northwest Indiana contacted Diana and me via Instagram to invite us down for a tasting of their Italian ice. They explained that they had been around for just under a year and while they were small operation, they had big plans for expansion and an unbeatable range of fresh and unique flavors that would keep us coming back for more. While Diana and I are no strangers to the sweet treat, we're always up for trying new places and we're also big fans of mini foodie road trips (she is the best road trip partner ever!), so we packed a cooler, jumped in her car, and headed down to Hammond, Indiana to check out Jodi's Italian Ice Factory. Little did we know back then that we take the same trip numerous times during the following six months because we just had to return again and again to stock up on our favorite flavors... yes, it really is that good!
Jodi's Italian Ice Factory has now been in business for just about a year and a half and has already opened two more locations, one in Whiting and another in Schererville, thanks to the heavy demand for their delicious treats. Owned and run by the tight-knit Tillman family, Jodi's is one of the few places in the region serving authentic Philly-style "water ice," which is characterized by its smooth and soft texture (unlike shaved ice, it's made by the same process used for ice cream). Introduced to the East Coast by Italian immigrants who wanted to recreate the granita served in their homeland, the treat was a childhood favorite of former Philadelphia dweller/owner Brian Tillman. Owner/wife Jodi wears the chef's hat and is often the face you'll see behind the counter at the Hammond location (sons Jesse and Corey also work to manage the three stores). While the classic lemon is always on the menu, Jodi rotates flavors depending on what's in season (her products are all-natural and made without stabilizers or preservatives). She also takes flavor requests from customers and works tirelessly to perfect each creation - those requests have led to some of their most popular flavors, including one of my favorites, Swedish Fish!
Our first visit to Jodi's - we were definitely in our dessert happy place! Some of our favorite flavors of the day included Sour Patch Kids, Green Apple, Mango, and Coconut. As I said to Diana, the coconut was so incredibly refreshing that it tasted like Jodi had frozen a coconut overnight and just scraped out the insides!
Owner/Chef extraordinaire (and namesake!), Jodi Tillman
Left: Green Apple and Cherry Italian Ice
Right: Cap'n Crunch Berries Ice CreamDuring our most recent visit, I fell hard for this Cap'n Crunch Berries Ice Cream. While the focus of the business is on Italian ice, Jodi occasionally whips up limited batches of ice cream and gelato (which are both just as delicious her Italian ice!). The vanilla ice cream has actual bits of Cap'n Crunch ground into it - as Diana mentioned, it's like a big cup of frozen milk and cereal!
Another customer favorite: the Mocha Gelato/Ice Blend
The aforementioned amazing Swedish Fish Italian Ice!
The adorable crew at the Whiting store, led by son Jesse
The crème de la crème: Horchata Italian Ice. Anyone who knows me knows that I have some hardcore love for horchata - I cannot tell you how excited I was to find it in Italian ice form! This flavor alone is what has fueled several of our spontaneous trips back to Indiana!
Along with her frozen treats, Jodi also sells her handmade cinnamon rolls out of the Hammond location; however, you have to get there early to snag one because these delicious rolls go fast!
Check out that frosting ooze action!
You can try all of this deliciousness and more (and you really should!) at Jodi's Italian Ice Factory. It's a quick 45-minute drive from downtown Chicago and the Whiting location is only 15 minutes from the must-visit Calumet Fisheries. It's the perfect foodie day trip!