Mario’s Italian Lemonade


Mario, the owner of Mario's Italian Lemonade

I went to visit one of my old haunts today because I had a taste for Al’s Italian beef. While eating my Italian beef from Al’s Beef and trying not to drip on my shirt, I looked across the street and saw Mario’s Italian Lemonade. The sign wasn’t up yet, but I’ve been there so many times that I know exactly what frozen delectable delights this summer haven offers to the sweaty throngs on a hot summer day. People like me, with absolutely no will power whatsoever, will stuff themselves at one of the restaurants on Taylor Street and then go to Mario’s for Italian ice. So now that I’ve gotten myself all worked up, I can’t wait till Mario’s opens on May first.

And just for the fun of it, I thought I would cross the street and take a picture of Mario’s Italian Lemonade stand to post on Facebook before I went to teach my last Spanish class of the day at UIC. I took a couple of pictures with my iPhone and started walking back to UIC. Suddenly, I hear someone yelling, “Mr. Photographer! Mr. Photographer!” I look back, but I can’t locate who was yelling through the crowd on Taylor Street. As I’m walking back, I see a man in a blue shirt waving at me. I’m not sure, but I have this strange feeling that I’m about to walk into trouble.

The man asks me, “Did you just take pictures of my place?” “Uh, yeah,” I said nervously. “Are you from the newspaper?” he asked. “Uh, no,” I said, confused. He wanted to know why I was taking pictures of his place. I began to wonder, too.

Apparently, someone from some newspaper was coming out to take pictures of his Italian lemonade stand for a feature article and he thought I might be the photographer. I was flattered because this was the first time I was ever confused for a photographer. My faithful blog readers who have seen the pictures I’ve posted know exactly what I mean.

Well, I must admit that we had an interesting encounter. He introduced himself as Mario, the actual Mario in the flesh, owner of Mario’s Italian Lemonade stand. As a lifelong Chicagoan, I can truly say that I was in awe as I shook the hand of the purveyor of Chicago’s best Italian ice! He was curious as to why I took pictures of the stand. I was too embarrassed to tell him that I was going to post the picture on Facebook. Then, right at that precise moment, a brilliant idea crossed my mind. I would write today’s blog entry about Mario’s Italian Lemonade! But I didn’t tell Mario! I still couldn’t get up the nerve to reveal my true intentions.

I asked Mario if I could take his picture in front of his stand and he agreed smiling happily. As we walked back, he asked me if I was Hispanic. When I said I was Mexican, he said he could tell. He said the secret of his success was his wife, who is Mexican. It turns out her family is from Guanajuato, México. He smiled when I told him my father’s family was also from Guanajuato.

He posed willingly. However, I think he was a little disappointed that I wasn’t a photographer from a newspaper. As I was taking his picture, I told him that his stand looked strange without people standing in line. He agreed and said he couldn’t wait to open up.

I can’t wait either. I need an Italian ice. Right now! I hope you like lemons if you go there. You see, no matter what flavor Italian ice you order,–watermelon, pineapple, whatever–they all have lemon inside. And that’s exactly what I love about Mario’s Italian ice!

David Diego Rodríguez, Ph.D.
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