Italian ice cream

26 March 2017
door Regina Coeli

Italian ice cream dates back to the 16th Century, but the history of ice cream goes back even further. It originated in Asia Minor and then eventually came to the rest of Europe via Sicily and Rome.
The Sicilians discovered ‘sorbetto’ (sorbet).

The first mention of ice cream is actually in the Bible. In one of the stories, Isaac gives Abraham goat’s milk mixed with snow, saying: The sun is burning hot, eat and drink to cool yourself. And in Palestine and Egypt there was the custom of mixing snow with fruit juice or milk to create a refreshing drink. The Sicilians took over the custom and mixed predominantly citrus fruits with snow and called it ‘sorbetto’ which came from the Arab word ‘Sherbeth’. Hence the Dutch word ‘sorbet’!

Water ice with exotic flavours

Over the course of the centuries, Italian ice cream spread to the rest of Europe, thanks mainly to the Sicilian, Francesco Procopio de Coltelli, who was one of the most significant people to have influenced the history of Italian ice cream. In 1686, he opened a café in Paris called Café Procope, which was an immediate success. People came to eat water ice with exotic flavours such as aniseed and cinnamon, or sorbet made of citrus fruits or strawberries. Café Procope became a famous meeting place to which people such as Voltaire, Napoleon, George Sand, Balzac and Victor Hugo came with pleasure.

Skilled ice cream makers from Belluno

The profession of ice cream maker was passed down from father to son. In the 20th Century, many Italians emigrated from the alpine valleys of Italy to other parts of Europe. Every valley had its own special craftsmanship; and that is why many ice cream makers in Europe originally come from Belluno area.

Popular ice cream flavours in Italian

There are also many famous Italian ice cream parlours in the Netherlands, such as Talamini, La Venezia, Frezzo and so on, where there are more than a hundred different flavours of ice cream to choose from. Popular flavours are:

Panna  Vanilla  
Fragola Strawberry
Cioccolato Chocolate
Nocciola  Hazelnut
Pistacchio Pistachio nut
Menta Mint
Stracciatella Chocolate chip
Amaretto Macaroon
Malaga Rum and raisin

And for the children, of course: 
Puffeto Blue smurf ice cream 
Puffeta Pink smurf ice cream


Poeffetto and Poeffetta

The smurfs originated in Belgium but are called ‘i puffi’ in Italy. Puffetto and Puffetta ice cream, which was first made in Italy, is bright blue and bright pink just like ‘i puffi’. But some ice cream parlours in the Netherlands haven’t made the connection with the original name, smurf, and call it ‘poeffetto’ and ‘poeffetta’ instead of ‘smurfenijs’ (smurf ice cream). Of course they’ve dutchified the Italian spelling!


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