WEST BUCKTOWN — Marisa and Joe Cruz left day jobs to open an Italian ice stand named after their infant daughter — and in its first two months, Ava’s Italian Ice has made a splash with the neighborhood crowd.
“The neighborhood and community has welcomed us, and we are very thankful for that,” said Marisa Cruz, who owns Ava’s Italian Ice with her husband, Joe.
Located in a former truck stop at 1814 N. Western Ave. along the border of Bucktown and Logan Square, Ava’s Italian Ice opened in May. The seasonal stand will stay open until Oct. 31. Hours are 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. daily.
Ava’s offers 12 varieties of fresh fruit-based Italian ice rotating weekly. Prices start at $3 for a kids cup and top out at $9.50 for a king’s cup. A flight of four generous scoops costs $8.
Marisa, who grew up on Taylor Street and is Italian, said that lemon is the most classic flavor and strawberry is popular with kids.
The ice batches using organic fruit are made in a labor-intensive process involving a lot of fruit peeling, whisking and mixing that ABC 7’s “Hungry Hound” Steve Dolinsky spotlighted earlier this week.
All of the cups are made with recyclable materials. A $6 “Neighborhood Cup” option allows regulars to get a $1 discount each time they return with their neighborhood cup.
Egypt Anderson, a Bucktown resident, was among those in line on Monday afternoon. She showed up with her neighborhood cup and decided on a mix of lemon and mango.
Monday was Anderson’s sixth visit to Ava’s and she does not appear to be the only hardcore regular, based on Yelp reviews. One customer wrote on Yelp that she’s been to Ava’s twice in the same week, while another raved about the flights: “Welcome to flight club. The first rule of flight club is: TALK ABOUT FLIGHT CLUB… this place is cool (literally). On a humid day, this place is my best friend.”
The road to open Ava’s Italian Ice took longer than expected.
The Elmwood Park couple said they’d aimed to open last summer— but getting a business started from the ground up took more time than they’d initially thought.
“We took free classes from the city on inspections, business licensing. We wanted to do it the right way,” Joe Cruz said.
Joe and Marisa Cruz met in 2014, when he was delivering food for Grubhub. Marisa worked at a dormitory on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston.
After delivering food to a student who lived in the dorm, Joe — who’d briefly met Marisa at the dorm’s main reception desk— looked up the dorm online and called its main number.
Marisa picked up the phone and Joe introduced himself as the guy who’d just brought in the Grubhub order.
“It was 11:45 a.m and I asked her if she had any plans for lunch. Now, four years later we have a business and two babies,” Joe Cruz said.