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Spumone Sorbet and ice-cream have origins that go way back, in Sicily, Campania and Puglia.
Spumone, invented in Naples and exported to Puglia, has become a very popular ice-cream in Salento.
Here’s where to taste the best ones…
by Dario Ersetti
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The classic hazelnut and chocolate spumone with a filling of sponge and almond brittle. Photo by Dario Ersetti

Blending ice or snow to fruit juices to achieve a refreshing sweet is an idea they thought up over four thousand years ago. The Arabs in Sicily used the snow on Etna and, with fruit juices and honey, created Sherbet (sweet snow from which the name sorbet derives), and then Emperor Frederick II took it to his beloved Puglia, where it became so popular that up to a few decades ago, semi-underground “neviere”, constructions that protected and conserved the snow for a long time, under layers of straw, were still in use. There also used to be a flourishing trade in ice transported from Albania to the Salento coast.

The whipped ice-cream as we know it would seem to have been invented by a Sicilian, Francesco Procopio de’ Coltelli, who, in 1686, opened a café in Paris, called Café de Procope. Procopio, thanks to a machine invented by his grandfather Francesco, by blending salt and ice, managed to render the mixture of fruit and sugar extremely homogenous.

The evolution of whipped ice-cream is spumone, whose origins could go back to the imagination of the Neapolitan “monsù” and is, basically, an individual ice-cream cake that has become so popular in Salento that it is considered a specialty of the area. It is a dome-shaped ice-cream, served in a tin bowl, that is kept in the fridge long enough for it to take on a more solid consistency on the outside, while the inside is softer because of the effect of the alcohol content on the filling.

In Lecce, at La Torinese, in viale Lo Re, they said you could find the best spumoni, made by the famous pastry-chef Cesare Prato. In the 1930s the aristocrats of Lecce used to take their children there, not forgetting their own telescopic silver travel cups and spoons so as to get round the problem of the rather low standards of hygiene in the pastry-shops. After its closure, in the post-war years, the people of Lecce began to frequent Cicci & Sebastiano in via Paladini, until Sebastiano, a Sicilian from Messina, dissolved the partnership in 1956.

You can find different flavors of spumone depending on the flavors of the ice-cream used – the most popular versions are hazelnut and chocolate – and on the filling, which can be made with sponge fingers or sponge cake soaked in various liquors.

In Gallipoli a version based on hazelnut or chocolate ice-cream, with a filling of what they call Plombières cream, flavored with Marsala or Benevento liquor, pieces of dark chocolate and crunchy toasted ground almonds, has become the most popular one. In Tuglie the filling is made of meringue.

In Lecce you can find some exquisite spumoni; among the best are those made by Franchini, Capilungo, Natale and Cadorna. Also in the provinces you can find some good ones; Bar Royal in Trepuzzi do some pistachio ones with candied mandarin peel that are a must.

In the United States you mustn’t miss the “National Spumoni Day”, held by request of the Italian immigrants on 21st August every year since the 19th century.

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