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Rochester's nicest ice and who makes it 

click to enlarge The harlequin cube, one variety of crystal-clear ice created by Cristallino Premium Ice, which supplies upscale cubes to area restaurants and bars. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • The harlequin cube, one variety of crystal-clear ice created by Cristallino Premium Ice, which supplies upscale cubes to area restaurants and bars.
If you’re spending $10 to $20 on a cocktail, you want every element to be pristine — right down to the ice.

That’s why dozens of local restaurants and bars are turning to Cristallino Premium Ice, which specializes in making crystal clear ice cubes and other custom shapes, elevating the humble cube to be worthy of a fancy potion’s premium ingredients.
click to enlarge Cristallino takes custom orders and will freeze a variety of objects, including fresh flowers, into its cubes. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Cristallino takes custom orders and will freeze a variety of objects, including fresh flowers, into its cubes.

On a weekly basis, the outfit churns out perfectly clear, baseball-sized spheres, cubes, gems, and other custom shapes to places that include Good Luck, Cure, Amore, and the Rose Tavern at the Lake House in Canandaigua. The company also takes custom orders for special events, and has frozen a variety of objects into its ice for clients, including company logos, figurines, and an engagement ring.

“We all make ice in our freezers,” Cristallino founder Ralph DiTucci said as he opened the lid of a specialized freezer in what resembled an industrial kitchen in a discrete East End building. “And that's valid, it makes your drink cool, which we like better. That's why we use ice. So, better ice is better.”

Cristillano’s creations are forged from 300-pound blocks of ice that take up to four days to make and require 40 gallons of water. Those blocks are then lifted out of Cristallino’s stainless steel, boxy freezer machine with a crane, and then cut down with saws before being shaped into crystal-clear cubes, spheres, or faceted forms.

They're sold to Cristallino's retail customers for $10 per dozen. Wholesale pricing is available to restaurants. Pricing for custom orders varies.

click to enlarge The clarity of Cristallino's ice comes from directional freezing in a specialized freezer, which eliminates gasses and minerals that create clouding. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • The clarity of Cristallino's ice comes from directional freezing in a specialized freezer, which eliminates gasses and minerals that create clouding.
But as mesmerizing as the ice is, its value is about more than aesthetics.

The clarity of Cristallino’s ice is achieved through directional freezing, a process that removes nearly all gasses and minerals that create clouding. This method also makes the ice much denser, which makes it slower to melt and dilute your drink, DiTucci said.

At the site of Cristallino Premium Ice’s operations at 17 Richmond St., it’s business in the front, and ice lab party in the back. Owners DiTucci and Megan Goodney launched the ice company in 2017 at the space, which also houses their other two operations in the building’s front room: the bitters and bar tools retail shop Bar Mecca, and the pop-up cocktail events under the brand “Grace & Disgrace.”

click to enlarge Cristallino co-owner Ralph DiTucci uses a saw to break down a 300-pound block of ice into more manageable cubes, which will then be shaped into a variety of fancy forms. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Cristallino co-owner Ralph DiTucci uses a saw to break down a 300-pound block of ice into more manageable cubes, which will then be shaped into a variety of fancy forms.
The cocktails served at these events each get their own ice treatment, DiTucci said. Their version of the Old Fashioned gets the harlequin cube, the surface of which is covered in diagonal lines to make a pattern of diamonds. The daiquiri has a faceted, gem top cube. The negroni, which is made with blanc vermouth and crushed ice, resembles a boozy snow-cone.

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DiTucci first encountered premium ice while working in Los Angeles, and saw an opportunity when he returned to his hometown of Rochester in 2016 and couldn’t find anything like it between New York City and Chicago.

click to enlarge Packages of crystal-clear cubes and spheres ready for Cristallino's retail and wholesale customers. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Packages of crystal-clear cubes and spheres ready for Cristallino's retail and wholesale customers.
Filling that gap turned out to be a savvy move, and Cristallino became a natural fit for Rochester’s upscale bar scene.

“When we started the ice business, we viewed clear ice as the logical next step for Rochester’s then-emerging cocktail culture,” DiTucci said. “Great hospitality programs require the best possible ingredients.”

Local hospitality leaders Donny Clutterbuck and Chuck Cerankosky helped encourage DiTucci and were among Cristallino’s first customers.

“Our reach has since grown, and we now supply over 30 bars and restaurants with cocktail ice on a regular basis,” DiTucci said.

Rebecca Rafferty is CITY's life editor. She can be reached at becca@rochester-citynews.com.
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