** THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED **
Tom Torri, who opened his first business, The Fruit Store, in Ladd, Illinois, in 1911, became so well known for the ice cream he made that people traveled from Chicago and the Quad Cities to buy gallons of it to take home. Heidi Templeton, who bought what had become known as Torri’s Ice Cream Parlor in 2004, no longer makes her own (she gets Sisler’s ice cream from Ohio), but maintains a delicious vintage sweet shop charm that makes this old place well worth a visit. The wall behind the counter is occupied by a big 1950s wooden menu that lists hamburgers for 25 cents and banana splits for 35 cents.
For years, the house slogan has been “Where friends meet.” Torri’s is the only place around serving breakfast (from 6am), so its tables and booths are where locals come to share morning conversation and to drink coffee served in a diverse collection of miscellaneous mugs. It’s also the only place in town with a serious dessert menu, so it also is a lure for after-dinner sweet tooths.
As much as I enjoyed spooning into my banana split, it was even more fun sitting at the counter watching it constructed. The woman who made it offered a running commentary about each step of the process, explaining how the two halves of the lengthwise-sliced banana were supposed to form a trough, damming up ice cream and sauce. She was crestfallen when, just before presenting her creation, the dam was breached by a spill of chocolate. Available ice cream flavors include all the classics, plus black cherry, cotton candy, mango, and moose tracks. I look forward to returning for a “Devil’s Delight,” which is two scoops of vanilla ice cream on top of warm devil’s food cake with toppings of hot fudge and caramel sauce.
The breakfast menu boasts that biscuits are made from scratch. Heidi said that they are indeed homemade, but not made here. I was puzzled, but didn’t pursue the question, as Heidi had her hands full, being both waitress and chef on the morning shift. Wherever it comes from, the biscuit served here is bland, a deficiency that can be remedied by having it split, buttered and cooked on the grill, where it absorbs bacon-sausage-ham-and-eggs savor. Mine came on the side of “loaded hash browns,” which, calorie-wise, is significant bang for the buck: a pallet of crisp-fried potatoes topped with peppers, onions, mushrooms, and a mantle of cheese, all for $3.25.