Carmen’s Italian Ice & Cafe

It’s hard to go wrong at Carmen’s Italian Ice & Cafe—the custard and Italian ice are good by themselves or layered together in a “gelati.” But we tend to like the creative treats the best: a strawberry custard pop dipped in chocolate and topped with Oreo crumbs, freeze-dried strawberries and strawberry sauce; a fall gelati made with homemade apple crisp and vanilla frozen custard; a churro sundae. Owner Jason Mandler says he’s always on the lookout for new menu items, and he often comes back from the North American Ice Cream Association convention with a bunch of ideas. (His plan to add a cotton candy burrito loaded with custard and toppings was deemed too labor intensive, so that isn’t on the menu—yet.) Customers can also get creative on their own—the number of flavors to mix and match, along with things like peanut butter cookie dough or fudge brownie bars, means the possibilities are endless. Bonus: Carmen’s sells “tipsy pops” for grown-ups. We had the Orange 21, an orange juice-based ice pop spiked with Grand Marnier. Next time we’ll go for the vodka lemonade pop.

Carmen’s Italian Ice & Cafe, 1115 Nelson St., Rockville, 301-545-1154; 3233 Spartan Road, Olney, 240-390-3164; carmensrockville.com