CLEVELAND — On Murray Hill Road in the heart of Cleveland’s Little Italy, you’ll find the Mount Granita Italian Ice cart serving up a refreshing relief from the warm weather.

Little Italy may be a small community, but it holds a big place in Mount Granita co-owner Christopher Giancola’s heart. 

What You Need To Know

  • As it heats up outside, many people in Cleveland’s Little Italy are turning to a traditional Italian treat to cool off

  • This is Mount Granita’s second season serving up vegan-friendly, gluten-free, dairy-free Italian ice

  • Mount Granita went from a street cart to being available in local grocery stores

​“My grandparents immigrated from Sicily to Little Italy and Cleveland in the 50s, and back then, it was a totally different neighborhood," Giancola said. "There were families on every, every house, there were little shops and every street corner, bakeries, dry goods stores, butchers, and over time, they all just kind of dispersed in one way as people moved out of the neighborhood."

In an effort to bring the community back to it’s roots, he went back to one of his grandmother's recipes. 

“[The way] my great-grandmother made it was very simple. She took leftover espresso, poured it in a dish and set it in the freezer. She'd scrape it every couple minutes and that simplicity is really the basis of our granita,” Giancola says.

He and co-owner Jonah Bae launched Mount Granita Italian Ice last year in the thick of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“A lot of people felt very comfortable approaching us since we are an outdoor street cart. Everything is spaced out socially, so it was really a welcoming thing in a time where there's a lot of uncertainty,” Giancola says.

This is their second season serving up vegan-friendly, gluten-free, dairy-free Italian ice made with 100% fresh fruit and cane sugar. Some fan favorites are classics such as watermelon, mango and lemon.

“We just hit the grindstone and start making things from scratch, and then something tastes good, we roll with it,” Giancola says.

In just a little over a year, Mount Granita has gone from being offered to the countless visitors who walk and drive up Murray Hill Road to being available in two nearby markets and the regional supermarket chain Heinen’s. Giancola says no matter how big this business gets, the small neighborhood of Little Italy will always be a core ingredient to it’s success. 

“Opening up our business was really inspired by those stories being passed down from my grandparents and from friends that we've met in the neighborhood. So it's really an homage to that time.” Giancola says.