Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Angelo Brocato's

Angelo Brocato's, $2.75

As a child in Palermo in the late 19th century, Angelo Brocato served a formal apprenticeship in a gelateria. After immigrating to Louisiana, he labored on a sugar plantation until he could save enough money to strike out on his own, opening first a small ice cream store, and then an elegant sit-down ice cream parlor in 1905. Brocato's has since operated out of several locations, moving to its current Mid-City location in the late 1970's. With its tile floors and delicate wirework chairs, the glass-fronted shop feels like something from another era, the time-travel aura enhanced by the fact that Brocato's is most easily reached by streetcar.

Just two months after celebrating its 100th birthday in July, 2005, Brocato's was swamped under five feet of water during Hurricane Katrina. Repairs and rennovations took more than a year to complete, and the reopening was greeted with fanfare and a brass band. The parlor is still operated by Angelo Brocato's decendants, who use his original Sicilian recipes for gelato, fruit ices, and pastries.

Some of the baked goods are familiar pan-Italian favorites (biscotti, torrone, cannoli, rum baba) but Brocato's also bakes treats that are less known and more specifically Sicilian. As their website explains, "...the nations which occupied Sicily at various times in its history have all left their mark on its cooking. So authentic Sicilian confections have Arabic, Greek and French overtones in addition to traditional Italian influences." More exotic offering include cuciada fig cookies and pigniolata, fried, sugar-coated nuggets of dough that resemble large pinenuts. A glass jar on the counter holds scadalina, a crispy, creepy "Deadman's Bones" cookie darkened with copius amounts of cloves and cinnamon and topped with a white cylinder that looks like an ossified marshmallow.

Brocato's still makes thirst-quenching Sicilian ices made from real fruit such as blood oranges and passionfruit, as well as a range of charmingly old-fashioned composed frozen desserts. These include tortoni (a frozen mixture of whipped cream, cake, and almonds), spumoni (layers of pistachio, tutti-frutti, and lemon gelato plus whipped cream), cassata (spumoni with cake and candied fruit).

Torroncino (above) was Brocato's first creation. The mixture of vanilla gelato, cinnamon, and crushed almonds is frozen into a brick and served in thick slices on an anachronistic paper doily. It's a simple concoction but satisfying on a number of levels--slightly spicy, light but creamy, and with a fine-grained crunch.

Angelo Brocato's Italian Ice Cream Parlor
214 N Carrollton Ave
New Orleans, LA

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