You don’t fully appreciate summer until you live in a city like Chicago. Everyone talks about how bitterly cold the winters are here, and don’t get me wrong, they’re not for the faint of heart. But I think it’s the length that makes them so brutal.

So when summer in Chicago finally does arrive, it’s like heaven on earth. The days are long and chock-full of free outdoor activities and rooftop bars and outdoor dining – even if it’s really just eating at a couple of tables crowded onto the sidewalk. Seriously, this is the stuff dreams are made of.

Now, let’s be honest, my favorite part of summer in Chicago is the food. And there’s no better place to start a summer foodie lineup than with dessert.

Annette’s Italian Ice quickly became one of my go-tos. My first apartment in Chicago was right around the corner, which some might say was too close for comfort. But is there such a thing?

This cash-only, counter service ice cream shop looks unassuming enough on a cool day. But walk by the corner of Bissell and Armitage once spring has sprung in Chicago and you can’t miss it. On a balmy Saturday night the line of sweet-treat seekers wraps around the block. Don’t let that deter you though. It moves quickly and is well worth the wait.

Annette’s serves generous portions of Italian ice, frozen yogurt, ice cream, shakes, malts, sundaes, splits, smoothies, ice cream sandwiches and more. And that’s not even including the toppings. The only time I’ve ever left Annette’s with one plain scoop of ice cream was the first time I went. Rookie mistake.

It’s impossible to pick a front-runner from the lengthy menu, but when it comes to the ice cream you can’t go wrong with a combo of Carrot Cake and Butter Pecan. It’s the perfect complementary pair and has tons of cakey, nutty goodness in every bite. But if I’m in a chocolate mood, the Ultimate Peanut Butter Brownie and Cookie Jar sure hit the spot. The rich ice cream is packed with chunks of brownie, cookie dough and chocolate candies. So good. And when I want to go a little lighter, low-fat peanut butter fro-yo topped with pretzel bits and a chocolate swirl covers all the bases.

With so many ice cream combos to try, it took me years to finally branch out and sample the Italian ice. To be honest, I’m typically not a huge Italian ice fan, but Annette’s Italian Fro-yo won me over. It’s a scoop {or two – not judging} of Italian ice layered on top of the frozen yogurt flavor of your choice, topped with an extra little dollop of fro-yo for good measure. It’s creamy and rich, without being too decadent.

If you find yourself in Lincoln Park this summer, or even if you don’t and you want to make the trip, I highly recommend Annette’s. If you go, you’ll have to let me know which new combo I should try. Or who knows, maybe I’ll see ya there.

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