BAPA Icon Collection – The Original Rainbow Cone Grows into Legend 

By Brian Marchetti 

For nearly a century, generations of Chicagoans have celebrated summer by treating themselves to the most iconic ice cream creation in the city. Five sliced flavors, chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, pistachio, and orange sherbet, stacked on top of each other, come together in an equally delicious and visually stunning feast. The Original Rainbow Cone began as a simple, yet innovative idea that started as a small Beverly/Morgan business and has now grown into legend. 

In 1926, Joe and Katherine Sapp set out to invent a way to eat ice cream that wasn’t limited to one flavor at a time. The combination, which seems odd at first glance, proved a recipe that has endured for several generations. The Original Rainbow Cone opened at 9233 S. Western Ave., where it remains to this day. 

When Joe and Katherine retired, they passed the business to their son Bob Sapp. Bob then handed off Rainbow Cone to Joe’s granddaughter, Lynn Sapp. In 2018, Lynn reached out to Buona Beef and Restaurants to grow the beloved brand. 

“We didn’t want to change anything,” John Buonavolanto, director of sales for Rainbow Cone and Buona Beef, said. “Lynn liked that we were a family business and we had the engine and the manpower to expand.” 

The first steps in the partnership began with Buona Beef offering an ice cream cake featuring the five flavors of the original Rainbow Cone. Shortly afterwards, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted their plan. An improvisational move proved how much the community loved rainbow Cone. 

“We were restrained because of the pandemic. One of our Buona restaurants built an ice cream truck that offered Rainbow Cones from the parking lot,” Buonavolanto said. “There were people lining up around the block. We knew then that we had to build new locations.” 

In 2021, the Sapp and Buonavolanto partnership opened two new locations, one in Lombard and another in Darien. Since then, they have expanded to 16 locations, five stand-alone Rainbow Cones and 11 located in Buona Beef kiosks with seven ice cream trucks available for catering and parties. 

Recently, Buonavolanto announced the introduction of four new cones, the Chocolate Obsession, Minty City, Cosmic Birthday, and Orange Dream. As of 2022, they’re looking to offer franchises throughout the Midwest and beyond, including Florida and California. 

Though Rainbow Cone looks to grow beyond what even its founders, Joe and Katherine Sapp may have thought possible, it will always remain an original southside Chicago institution, as indelible as the South Side Irish Parade. 

“Lynn has always talked about the memories people have shared over a Rainbow Cone,” Buonavolanto said. “So many good times shared with friends and family while waiting in line on a warm summer night.” 

Kathleen Terone, 82, originally from Brighton Park and now living in Countryside, has been coming to The Original Rainbow Cone for more than 70 years. Her Uncle Hen used to take Terone and her siblings by bus to 93rd and Western at least once a summer. She recalled a time when her younger sister, Eileen ‘Mickie” O’Malley, spilled all five slices after just a few bites. 

“After all these years, I’m still going,” Terone said. “I came as a kid, I brought my children, and now I bring my grandnieces.” 

The Original Rainbow Cone serves as a touchstone to so many in our community, both those who can trace their roots back several generations and new arrivals who have discovered yet another gem in Beverly/Morgan Park. It’s a monument to what a good idea backed with hard work can do. 

Stop by and share the experience with friends and family and create memories that last a lifetime. 


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