ELIZABETH, NJ – Paul Addressa, the city’s recreation director, stood on the corner of High Street and Fourth Avenue and reminisced about his first job at DiCosmo’s Italian Ice. “I was in the eighth grade. I used to crush the ice, sell penny candy, ice cream, and pretzel rods. Lucy used to tell me I filled the ice cups up too much.”
Paul’s memories are among thousands made in the 100 years of DiCosmo’s Italian Ice’s existence. Generations of customers remember being walked there by their grandfathers for the first ice of the season. Many who left the neighborhood still return to the little, green house for an Italian ice like no other. Jill Palumbo, who grew up on Centre Street, recalled, “Although I loved the lemon ice as a kid (the smallest cup was a nickel), what I loved even more was walking inside, where there was an old-fashioned candy store. There was brightly colored penny candy behind glass cases, all stacked up on crisp white paper. I just loved looking at it. Years later, I discovered the Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem The Pennycandystore Beyond the El, and it's still one of my favorites because it reminds me of Agnes's. We of a certain age called it Agnes's, rather than DiCosmo's.”
Yesterday, July 23, DiCosmo’s was honored by the city on its 100th anniversary. Sixth Ward Councilman Frank Mazza, who came from the same town as Caterina and Giovanni DiCosmo, Vallatta, Italy, read the proclamation that was synopsis of the store’s history. It opened as a convenience store in 1915 with Caterina making an Italian speciality, granita or lemon ice. When her son married Agnes Piedgon, her new daughter-in-law convinced her to expand the menu to orange, pineapple, and peach. Lucy Rainone came to work and became known as Lemon Lucy.
Today, the store is run by the third DiCosmo generation, John and Nancy, and the lines on hot, summer days are just as long as they were 100 years ago, as generations continue to make memories at the little, green house.