Biz Beat

Rita’s opens in Ceres; plans spring giveaway in Modesto

These last few days of winter sure have us looking to spring — warm temperatures, sunny skies, Daylight Saving Time-extended evenings. Doesn’t some cool Italian ice sound good about now?

As of Wednesday, folks in Ceres will be able to get their hands on said smooth and creamy treat without driving to Modesto.

Nick Schutte, who owns the Rita’s that opened in Modesto early last year, is opening a site on Mitchell Road. A grand opening is set at noon.

Rita’s started in Bensalem, Penn., in 1984. According to the company’s website, former firefighter Bob Tumolo started selling the treats from a “small porch window” as an effort to make some extra money. He named the business after his wife, Rita. The confection itself dates back much further — ancient Romans and Grecians “would infuse handfuls of snow from Mount Etna with wines and syrups as a special delicacy.”

Tumolo and his mother, Elizabeth, added chunks of fresh fruit to the treats they were making. They apparently landed on a winning recipe, because by 1987 Tumolo and his brother, John, were operating four locations in Philadelphia.

The company started franchising in 2005, and now there are more than 600 Rita’s locations nationwide.

On Monday, all of them — including the new Ceres spot — will celebrate the first day of spring with the annual Rita’s giveaway. Company spokeswoman Catie Gainor said people can stop in all day for a free Italian ice. Last year, the crowd in Modesto was large and enthusiastic.

Find the new Rita’s in Ceres at 1515 Mitchell Road, Suite 6, and the one in Modesto at 2001 McHenry Ave.

Elsewhere around the Business Beat:

If your taste in treats runs more toward the caffeinated, local McDonald’s restaurants would like to see you. The Stanislaus County locations of the fast food giant are among those taking part in rolling out new specialty coffee drinks: a caramel macchiato (hot or iced), a French vanilla cappuccino, and an Americano — espresso topped with hot water.

From Monday through March 26, you can try these drinks for $1.

“This is an exciting time for McDonald’s in Northern California,” Steve Ramirez, a local McDonald’s franchisee, said in a news release. “...Our customers in Northern California will be the first to experience these delicious new flavors that capture the great taste of our current McCafé offerings and will be sure to please.”