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Mario’s is open — it’s officially summer in Chicago!

Mango Italian lemonade at Mario's (Photo ©2013 by Leah A. Zeldes.)

Mango Italian lemonade at Mario’s. (Photo by Leah A. Zeldes.)

Nothing says summer in Chicago like Mario’s Italian Lemonade.

Open from early May to mid-September, Mario’s has been a Little Italy icon since 1953. Hot days will find long lines stretching out into the street waiting for slushy Italian lemonande and freshly roasted nuts. Everybody goes to Mario’s — if you want to see a real cross section of Chicagoans, head to Taylor Street when the temperatures soar.

Mario DiPaolo, whose father opened the historic stand, still uses fresh fruit, imported flavorings and cane sugar to make the refreshing cross between a frozen dessert and a beverage the old-fashioned way. All the flavors start with lemon, and bits of peel and seeds in your cup testify to its origins as the real thing.

Most of the flavors, including about half a dozen made with additional fresh fruit, are available all season, but a few special flavors appear fleetingly. Fans wait eagerly for the fleeting period in midsummer when honeydew appears and in August when fresh peach is served. This year, mango made an appearance for the first time in years. It might be gone already, but take a chance and stop by.