italian food  July 2011
    by Nunzio Romano

Italian Street Food: Gelato

As we have seen in a recent post on the “Arancini”, there are many preparations related to typical Italian street-food, and amongst them it is impossible not to include the ultimate summer street-food: the Gelato.


Even in this case we have found some reference from history books; already at the court of Alexander the Great it seems that some sort of mixture of fruits, honey, spices and snow was prepared: if not the taste at least the spirit was in common.

However, for the modern Gelato we must look back at more recent times.
There are several theories about its invention, some refer to the court of Catherine De’ Medici, other to the court of Charles I of England, but it is more likely that the invention of the modern Gelato is to be attributed to a Sicilian named Francesco Cutò, better known as Francesco Procopio Dei Coltelli.

There are several stories circulating about him: some say that he inherited a machine for preparing gelato from his grandfather and learned to make Gelato using snow from Etna. Others recount of how, during his journeys to France, he would buy the essence of Bergamot in the city of Messina and sell it in France and that it was the earnings from his sales that made his fortune, allowing him to obtain from the King of France the license for the production of iced water and citrus or bergamot sorbets.

What is certain is that the enterprising Sicilian, after having arrived in the French capital, in 1686, opened what is generally recognized as the first “Café” in the world: “Café Procope”.

In the Café, Fancesco would serve, in addition to coffee, water and bergamot and citrus sorbets, also a Gelato, innovative for its time, made with sugar instead of honey.
The Café Procope became so famous in those years that amongst his customers you could find people like Robespierre, Voltaire and Napoleon.
It was though this renowned Café that Gelato obtained its fame in Europe, becoming a commonly sold item by hawkers with street carts which were carried around the city roads.

And you? What flavors do you prefer when it comes to Gelato? What are your favorite varieties? And where are the best places to enjoy it?

If you want to try to prepare the Gelato at home you can follow the recipe of our chefs!

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“Italian Street Food: Gelato”

  1. I have actually never had Gelato, but it scares me a little. I think maybe I will just stick to classic ice cream. Although I did find it interesting that the first “cafe” in the world served it

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