Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Get on the Canal Street Streetcar,

making sure that you are on the one that reads “City Park and Museum” and not the one headed to the cemeteries. A block after the streetcar turns onto North Carrollton, you disembark and hurry to another of New Orleans treasures—Angelo Brocato's Italian Ice Cream & Italian Desserts.

“Angelo Brocato looks like it would be completely at home in Boston’s North End, Manhattan’s Little Italy or on Arthur Avenue in the Belmont section of the Bronx. But it’s not—it’s on one of the busiest streets in New Orleans’ Mid-city district…

“Shortly after the shop celebrated its 100th birthday, fate intervened. On August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the city and the rest, of course, is history. Sadly, Angelo Brocato was one of the worst hit businesses when the levees broke—over four feet of water poured into the shop and destroyed absolutely everything. Many thought that the place would never be rebuilt, but optimism was high in the Brocato family and announce-ments were made that the legendary gelato/ pastry store and cafe would again re-open… After over a year, on September 26, 2006, the store re-opened, to a great amount of fanfare” (Jason Perlow at offthebroiler.wordpress.com).

“A century ago, 12-year-old Angelo Brocato began an apprentice-ship in one of Palermo, Italy's elegant ice cream parlors where he learned the special recipes for the world's finest desserts. It was the beginning of a saga that would eventually take him to America and the realization of a dream…. In 1905, he opened Angelo Brocato's Ice Cream Parlor, a replica of Palermo's finest emporiums and one of the city's first sit-down parlors… One hundred years later, the Italian ice cream business is still run by his descendants and continues to bear the name, and the portrait, of its founder” (angelobrocatoicecream.com).

Brocato’s is not just ice cream. The cases are filled with an assortment of cookies that includes Italian Seed Cookies (Biscotti Di Regina), Italian Assorted Cookies (Chocolate, Pink, White, Yellow & Green Biscotti), Italian Fig Cookies (Cucidata), Italian Biscotti, Scadalina (Hard Cookies or
"Deadman Bones"), Anise Biscotti, Almond Biscotti, and Pigniolata (Sugar Coated Con-fections). Many of these are sold in “grab and go” bags.

And even though it is mid-afternoon and one needs to make considerable effort to reach Brocato’s, the shop was a beehive of activity with patrons ordering gelato, spumoni, cassata, and cannolis—often with a shot of espresso. “The new gleaming brass Italian Espresso/Cappuccino machine is the centerpiece of the new store. While many mourned the passing of their previous antique coffee machine, which served the store for many years, the new machine serves probably what is the best Italian coffee in the entire city” (Jason Perlow at offthebroiler.wordpress.com).

We gazed at the pastry case.

We gazed at the gelato case.

We gazed at the menu posted on three wooden boards on the wall. When confronted with such luscious yumminess, what do we order?

We decide to order a large three-flavor dish of gelato to share and two cannolis to take home for dinner that evening. From the list of gelato flavors, we opted for a scoop of Baci or Italian Kiss (Chocolate Hazelnut), a scoop of Caramel Cafe Au Lait, and a scoop of St. Joseph Chocolate Almond. The first tasted like an intense Nutella; the second was streaked with soft caramel; the third was dotted with large pieces of roasted almonds.

And the cannolis? These are filled to order so that the crisp shell doesn’t soften from the chocolate cheese filling, stuffed with chocolate chips and embellished with pistachios.

It is sad that so much of New Orleans was lost due to the post-Katrina flooding, but it would have been sadder yet if places such as Angelo Brocato’s hadn’t survived. I’ll close with a quote from frommers.com: “In a constant stream of heartbreak, the sight of this sweet, genuine ice-cream parlor, which was celebrating its 100th birthday…under five feet of water, its classic sign askew, was particularly painful. By that same token, the news that the Brocato family…would be back was particularly joyful and inspiring. And that's even before you get to the goods. They make rich Italian ice cream (made fresh daily), cookies, and candy in the kind of atmosphere that is slowly being lost in this age of strip malls and superstores.”

This is the perfect 5.0 Addie way to take an afternoon break.