Restaurant of the Week: Rita’s Italian Ice

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Rita’s Italian Ice, 15870 Soquel Canyon Parkway (at Los Serranos), Chino Hills

Rita’s is a Pennsylvania-based chain of 600 locations that recently opened one in the south part of Chino Hills. There aren’t many places around here to get Italian ice or frozen custard, its two specialties. For a break from Sunday’s 107-degree heat, I headed to CHills for some chills.

Rita’s is in a small center off the 71 Freeway with a Wells Fargo, Rite Aid and a handful of other stores. Inside, I was greeted promptly, by the manager no less, who asked if I’d been to a Rita’s before. I hadn’t, so she gave me the spiel about the menu and product. They have a dozen flavors of Italian ice at any given time, made fresh daily. They have frozen custard usually, except due to bird flu, they have only one flavor (I think); the others are soft-serve ice cream.

You can see the daily menu of flavors on the website. That day the ice flavors included cotton candy, birthday cake, root beer, margarita and blue raspberry.

I ordered a Gelati, which is part ice, part custard (or ice cream), choosing blood orange ice with orange and vanilla twist ice cream (large: $4.79 with tax). The large size was more than I needed, as it turned out, but it was an excuse to stay there and enjoy the air conditioning. There was a layer of ice cream on the bottom, a middle layer of Italian ice and another layer of ice cream on top. The flavors paired well.

They have another combo, the Blendini, which is ice, custard and a mix-in, and a beverage called the Misto, which is the Gelati put through a blender.

On Yelp, some people prefer Frostbites, a similar shop in Chino that has Italian ice, custard, sorbet, ice cream and more. Well, I’ll have to give that a try too. On a brutally hot day, though, Rita’s hit the spot.

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Lily’s Tacos to move; former Orange Julius stand to be pulped

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You may know it as one of Pomona’s better taco shops, but 2128 N. Garey Ave. (at La Verne Street) began its life as an Orange Julius stand. And it’s not long for this world, as the wrecking crew is coming. The stand will be demolished as part of the renovations of the undistinguished strip mall behind it. A new, undetermined restaurant will replace Lily’s.

In the meantime, Lily’s is still serving customers despite being isolated by construction. You have to admire their gumption. And Lily’s is going to relocate — more on that in a moment.

What’s the history? The stand operated as an Orange Julius drive-in from its opening in 1963 until 1980. From that point, the stand was home to a series of taquerias; Lucky 7, El Merendero, Tehuacan, Los Dos Compadres and Taqueria Alvarez are the names brought to my attention. Lily’s has been the longest tenant, since 1992 according to its sign, which means Lily’s occupied the stand longer than Orange Julius. How about that!

Lily’s was a neat spot, especially on a warm night, when you could eat in comfort on the picnic tables out in front of the walk-up stand. The food was reliably good and they would even serve it on a plastic plate and put your drink in a plastic cup.

I had dinner there Monday, for the first time in a couple of years. It required parking in the adjacent lot for Las Margaritas and walking around from the sidewalk. I got three al pastor tacos and a medium horchata for $6.06 and ate at one of the three picnic tables. It was a nice outing and a chance to remember meals past under that shaded awning, light bulbs hanging, the sizzle of the grill audible.

Thankfully, Lily’s will survive elsewhere — and indoors this time.

“Much to my delight, Lily’s is currently working on their new location at 901 N. Garey, a bit north of Holt on the west side of the street,” says fellow Lily’s fan Mark Lazzaretto, Pomona’s development director. “I don’t know when they’ll be open, but it can’t be soon enough for my liking.”

An employee said they hope to open within six weeks. They’ll remain at the little stand as long as they can.

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Montclair to get more shops

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A new building is going up in Montclair around where Long John Silver’s used to stand, on the east side of Central Avenue across from Costco. It will have two tenants, one of which will be a Starbucks with a drive-thru, which as it’s only yards from the 10 Freeway onramp should become popular quickly. The other tenant is slated to be a Sleep Number mattress store.

Caffeine and bedtime? One suspects customers at the two businesses are going to be mutually exclusive.

Two more buildings are planned on the same site, with the entire complex to be known as the Montclair Shoppes. I don’t think anyone’s going to confuse it with the Shoppes at Chino Hills, which is a full-fledged mall, but hey, the developers have to call it something.

As a note to motorists, the northbound lane of Central is closed in that area while the contractor completes utility work and curb and gutter replacement and won’t reopen until late in August.

* Since people are asking, here’s what I wrote in April: “A small development to be called Montclair Shoppes is expected to break ground soon on Central Avenue across from Costco. Committed tenants include a long-awaited Original Tommy’s, only its second Inland Valley location. (The other is in Chino.) Also slated: Jersey Mike’s, Dickey’s BBQ, Robek’s Juice, a Starbucks drive-through and an AT&T store.”

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Text of Andrew Cruz’s comments Aug. 13

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At Thursday’s Chino Valley Unified School District board meeting, the first since his political monologue at the July 16 session that created a furor, board member Andrew Cruz asked for time to speak prior to the 19 public comments. I shot video (watch the first part here) and transcribed his comments verbatim, mistakes, missing words and all, as best I could.

Cruz: “Since our last board meeting, I thought a lot of my comments made in an unorganized, hasty manner. Although I support strong family values, I have never intended to exclude any single child from my heart, because I believe every living human being is very precious and is born with unfortunate purposes in life. If my comments made, derived from research and news media reports, may have left you victimized, please accept my sincere apologies. ‘Cause that’s not who I am.

“I’d rather choose to be the victim but never to be the one who would hurt someone both intentionally and intentionally. Thank you and I truly love each one of you.”

[finishes reading from prepared remarks]

“I just want to say one thing. And that is, this boardsmanship that I have is a very beautiful experience that I am dealing with. I am grateful and humbled of the things I am doing and how I am working with children throughout these three years. But I have tremendous joy in my heart, and that these things I see, and the things that are going on, I will speak from my heart. I am grateful and humble knowing the fact that the pain that you guys are feeling, I can definitely relate what you are going through here. You know, as a special ed student, I do, based on things that I have experienced, a lot of these things that felt the same way that I felt when I was younger. And it’s a dirty shame that it had to be the way it was directed. It may have been misguided, but it was from my heart, of the things I had seen and the direction of this country that it’s going towards. And you may not accept that –”

Irene Hernandez-Blair, the board president: “OK, Mr. Cruz…”

Cruz: “Hold on please.”

Hernandez-Blair: “This is a statement for public comment.”

Cruz: “Thank you.”

Look for my column on the meeting in Sunday’s paper.

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Column: Dipping into the mailbag about ‘the dips’

“The dips,” the subject of a column in late June, drew some interesting reactions from readers. That makes up the bulk of Friday’s column — with a few comments about the malaprops in an early July column as well. Just so you know, this column has been largely written since late July, but what with one thing or another — CVUSD or ONT news, mainly — it’s only getting in now (after some tweaks and additions this week). Good to get it off my plate and into your newspaper or electronic device.

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Restaurant of the Week: Maple House

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Maple House Chicken and Waffles, 1520 N. Mountain Ave. (at 6th), Ontario

Chicken and waffles are hard to come by in the 909; I think there used to be a Roscoe’s in San Bernardino, but other than that, the only place I’m aware of is an obscure Pomona restaurant, Day Day’s, which isn’t open for dinner. But now there’s a spot in Ontario.

Maple House opened in March in what had been Sal and Sons Pizza, right off the 10 in the Gateway Center, near Starbucks and a cupcake shop. One of Sal’s sons is still involved, and the interior looks largely the same. But service is now at your table rather than at the counter and the menu, needless to say, is entirely different. (There’s also a patio with umbrellas.)

Have you had chicken and waffles? I have, a couple of times, at the Roscoe’s in Pasadena. The chicken and the waffle are usually plated separately, if you’re curious, and can be eaten separately, with the waffle more of a side dish, or eaten together. They do pair surprisingly well.

A friend and I tried Maple House for dinner recently. They serve several kinds of waffles (with such toppings as bananas, strawberries, pecans and Nutella) and various pieces of chicken, all cooked to order; they also serve omelets, salads, desserts — peach cobbler and sweet potato pie — and beer and wine. Sides include yams, mac and cheese, turkey greens and more. And my friend got a grape Kool-Aid. So it’s a soul food restaurant, and the background music included James Brown, but they’re not quite all-in.

The chicken and waffle dinners came with two sides, which seemed like too much food, so my friend and I ordered a la carte: a waffle each ($4) with a breast for me ($4.35) and a leg ($2.50) and wing ($2.25) for him. We each found that a filling meal.

The chicken coating was crunchy, with excellent texture, and the chicken itself came off the bone easily and tasted great; my friend declared it “awesome,” and as chicken is his favorite meal, that says a lot. The waffles were puffier than Roscoe’s and had powdered sugar too. Roscoe’s is a tradition, the food’s very good and the energy and vibe part of the experience; Maple House doesn’t have that, but the food is arguably just as good, and depending on where you live, it’s probably closer.

Each table, by the way, has a small sign advising that the food is cooked to order and that the chicken “can take up to a minimum of 30 minutes to prepare.” Isn’t “up to a minimum” contradictory? Mixed messages aside, our food came out in about 20 minutes during a slow period. Be prepared to wait a bit, but it’s worth it.

I’m not a guy who wants to order chicken and/or waffles very often, but it’s cool to have a local place, and one with good hours: from 9 a.m. daily, closing at 8 on Sundays, 9 on Mondays to Thursdays and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

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World’s biggest, and dustiest, yard sale?

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A construction fence has gone up around much of the 250-acre Meredith property in Ontario above the 10 Freeway — and, heh, someone in the neighborhood used the new real estate to post a “yard sale” sign Monday. Wherever it is, it’s probably not on the vacant land — although with all that dirt, you could put out an awful lot of blankets and card tables to display your wares.

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