Photo by Elenna Mach
Rockville staple with New Jersey roots, Carmen’s Italian Ice has become a popular spot for desserts, with a great atmosphere for students to cool off over the hot summer.
The menu is filled with a variety of ices, custard flavors, shakes, cakes and snacks. With over 40 flavors of ice and tens of custards, there are many possibilities for unique mixtures. Flavors vary almost weekly, with a select few that remain available all year. In the morning, people can visit Carmen’s to grab coffee and breakfast, a less popular, but nonetheless delicious option.
Covered in murals and unique paintings, the walls reflect the beachy feel of the Jersey Shore. Located across from Woodley Gardens Park, the cafe on Nelson Street is an ideal location for children and groups of friends.
The overall feel of the shop is comfortable and roomy, but the outside seating is extensive and inviting in the warmer weather. While the patio seating is open to all the shops around Carmen’s, it is often filled exclusively by Carmen’s customers.
Although the dessert shop is visited year-round, the summer is the most popular time of the year for Carmen’s as cold desserts are often the go-to option to satisfy cravings in heat.
Jason Mandler, the owner of Carmen’s, moved from New Jersey to Maryland for a new opportunity, he said. Having only worked in retail, he took advantage of the chance to open a business within his budget. In 2001, he had the simple plan to introduce italian ice to D.C.
Mandler opened the shop without many expectations, but is more than happy with how much it has grown over the past 18 years, he said. He and his staff find joy in what they do and ensure that they are different from competing dessert shops.
“We’re not afraid to admit when we do something wrong or to take some chances and I think you have to do that,” Mandler said.
Community is one of the most important aspects of Carmen’s, as the shop organizes many days to celebrate different events. Arguably, the most popular celebration is Jayden Day, when customers can get half-price gelatis and ice on the 8th of every month to celebrate the birthday of Mandler’s son, Jayden.
Another daily special is the “Name of the Day,” where four different names are chosen from the shop’s social media page to get a free gelati. With social media, Carmen’s efficiently grows their popularity, constantly updating their promotions and specials.
Some RHS sport teams have made Carmen’s a crucial part of team-bonding.
“Towards the end of the season as it got warmer outside, we all would go to Carmen’s after almost every practice and game to have fun,” junior lacrosse player Rowena Cording said.
Prices at Carmen’s vary by items and size. The most popular item, gelatis, can cost anywhere from $4 to $8— a relatively expensive price.
As the end of the school year nears and summer begins, Carmen’s is an ideal stop to make memories and enjoy dessert.