By: Darryl Holliday – July 2011

Summer and ice cream are two things that were always meant to go together. From favorite flavors to the way it’s served up-cups, cones, bowls, fountain glasses and more-Sun Times readers have a soft-serve spot in their hears for specific ice cream emporiums. We asked our readers to nominate their favorite ice cream places, and from those 68 nominees, they cast their votes for the “Best Ice Cream” in the Chicago area.

So here’s your winner, Chicago, along with the rest of the Top Ten:

America’s love affair with ice cream runs deep

It seems that ice cream has been destined for greatness in the United States ever since the first cow arrived in 1611. Over time, the sweet, frozen treat has become one of the most popular desserts in the country.

President Ronald Reagan in 1984, proclaimed July “National Ice Cream Month,” and July 17 is officially “National Ice Cream Day.”

Chances are high that you have ice cream in your home right now, as more than 90 percent of U.S. homes purchase the frozen snack-fueling an industry that has stayed mostly stable for decades. According to the most recent statistics available from the International Dairy Foods Association, 920 million gallons of regular ice cream were produced in the United States in 2009.

Illinois, which has produced its fair share of historical ice cream lore, including claims that Evanston is the city where the ice cream sundae originated, was the ninth-leading producer of ice cream and related products nationally at 36 million gallons in 2009.

Though vanilla, with nearly 28 percent of the markets, is still far and away the favorite flavor for ice cream among U.S. residents, chocolate has been steadily gaining on the long-time leader, most recently topping at 14.3 percent. Strawberry, chocolate chip and butter pecan round out the top five.

But, according to Peggy Armstrong, vice president of communications for the IDFA, vanilla lead is easily explained.

“It’s that you can use it for so many things,” Armstrong said. “It just goes good with everything.”Armstrong also noted that the latest trends in ice cream flavors seem to be leaning in increasingly experimental directions. As new technologies create opportunities, companies are responding with flavors that incorporate salt, as well as flavors that “remind people of other things,” she said, such as cake, oatmeal and pie-flavored ice cream.

Pie, typically regarded as America’s favorite dessert, may actually be in danger of losing that coveted sweet treat status.

ABOVE: Brothers Tommy (left) and Todd Zarlengo are the lastest generation of their family to helm the Chicago Heights-based Zarlengo’s Italian Ice. RIGHT: A turtle sundae is made at Zarlengo’s.

1 Chicago, you nominated your favorites and for one week, you voted for who you rank as the best ice cream in Chicago. The winner? Zarlengo’s Italian Ice and Gelato (257 W. Joe Orr Rd., Chicago Heights, 708-754-9080,

Since 1983, the Zarlengo family has served Chicago Heights with unique recipes and fresh ingredients. With more than 40 flavors of handmade frozen treats all produced in-house, the family, which makes up the majority of the restaurant’s staff, stays busy churning out quality treats to loyal customers.