Larry Norton, owner of the original Zeppe's Italian Water Ice in Harrisville, said he grew up on the East Coast where Italian water ice is popular everywhere.
After a demanding career with a pharmaceutical company, Norton, who has enjoyed snowboarding for more than 20 years, took a trip to Utah, fell in love with Ogden Valley and decided to relocate for a change of pace.
Life was wonderful for Norton in his new home, except that he missed his Italian water ice during the hot summers. In June 2007, he and co-owner Tina Garcia, who manages the Harrisville store, introduced the Top of Utah to this unique product.
Norton describes the ice as having the texture and consistency of ice cream -- except that it is fat-free, cholesterol-free and dairy-free. He says it is blended with fresh fruit puree to create authentic flavors that really burst.
Zeppe's carries more than 25 flavors -- including mango, strawberry cream, root beer, passion fruit, pineapple, black cherry, coconut cream, lemon guava and orange cream -- ranging in price from $1.59 to $2.85.
Zeppe's also features old-fashioned creamy custard in chocolate and vanilla. Norton describes the custard as a premium ice cream made from an egg base that is denser and four times more expensive to produce than the average soft-serve ice cream, because no air is pumped into it.
It's served in a cup or stacked on a cake cone for $2.19, $3.19 or $3.79. For an extra 50 cents, you can get it in a waffle cone.
The custard and ice can be mixed to make a shake, but the most popular menu item by far is the Gelata ($3.39/regular size), created by layering the custard and ice.
Some popular gelata combinations include coconut cream with chocolate, which tastes similar to an Almond Joy candy bar; black cherry with chocolate, similar in flavor to a Black Forest cake or chocolate-covered cherries; mint water ice with chocolate custard; orange cream with chocolate; or peach with vanilla.
They've also mixed some of the ice flavors to come up with new, refreshing combinations. Norton's personal favorite is the Sunset Splash, with mango, orange cream and strawberry. Ocean Blue combines green apple and blue raspberry.
"It's a beautiful aqua blue, like the ocean," Norton said.
Another popular combination is fruited peach with banana, which he says tastes like eating a fresh peach.
Garcia said one of her favorite aspects of running the business is getting to train teenagers who are often working at their first job. She helps them write resumes for future employment when the seasonal business closes for the winter months.
Norton said he loves having his winters free for snowboarding. The business has been so popular that a franchise store opened in Layton, and three more are in the works for locations across the Top of Utah.
ZEPPE'S ITALIAN WATER ICE
ADDRESS: 883 N. Washington Blvd., Harrisville
HOURS: 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2-10 p.m. Sundays
FRANCHISE LOCATION: 1095 N. Main St., Layton; 801-682-8249