13 June 2013

AUNTIE PASTA: Paciugo, Panera and Penguins

CHIAVARI, Italy – The other day a friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook of the Paciugo Gelato and Café bar at the Cleveland airport and I got to wondering if the people walking by think Paciguo is the name of the guy who owns the café.  It isn’t.
Airport, Cleveland, Ohio (photo: Vivian Infantino) 
Paciugo is an Italian word that means a ‘mess’, and it is also is the name of a very delicious ice cream confection that is found in this part of Liguria, the Chiavari, Lavagna, Portofino, Rapallo, Santa Margherita Ligure, Sestri Levante and Zoagli part.

The original paciugo recipe called for vanilla ice cream flavored with sour cherries and sour cherry syrup. Over the years whipped cream was added and other fruits like strawberries and peaches   in addition to the traditional sour cherries. And for those who really like to live on the edge, chocolate ice cream is an acceptable alternative to traditional vanilla. 
The recipe I found calls for whipped cream, chocolate ice cream, small pieces of fruit (your choice), cherries in heavy syrup, cherry syrup and chopped hazelnuts. The cherries in syrup go in the dish first, then a little chocolate ice cream, then chopped fruit drizzled with cherry syrup, then whipped cream with more cherry syrup cut into it and to top it off - the chopped hazelnuts.

The author of the recipe wrote ‘not everyone puts everything,” for truth be known Italians don’t like their food all mixed together. And the reason this ice cream confection was named ‘paciugo’ is probably because the cherries and ice cream and whipped cream are sort of mixed together just by being next to each other in the same dish. That equals mess in Italian. If the gelateria followed normal Italian eating patterns, each ingredient would be put on a separate plate and eaten in a yet-to-be-determined order. But I digress.
The One on the Left is Panera 

Another Ligurian confection is panera, which translates from Genovese dialect to Italian as panna nera, and from Italian to English as black cream. In reality panera is not not cream or black, but a very delicious light brown coffee flavored semifreddo.

The Genovese say panera was developed in Genova in the mid 1800’s. I have no reason to doubt them, even if they are a little vague about the date.  What they are more precise about is not   calling panera ‘coffee gelato’, it is a semifreddo.  There is a slight difference and to know more about semifreddi I recommend: http://thisitalianlife.blogspot.it/search?q=Very+Berry).

And now, on to the battle of the penguins.

 Giumin Gelateria, Genova Nervi
An Italian pinguino is a chocolate covered ice cream on a stick, and originated in Italy. A true, hand-made pinguino may be a little hard to find these days, but if you go to the Giumin Gelateria in Genova Nervi, you might get lucky. Gerolamo Boero, the 91 years old owner of Giumin, claims to be the creator of the pinguino. He says he got the idea one day when he was just a kid, and went into the gelateria, which was then owned by his grandfather, and put his idea together. His grandfather liked it, and they began selling the chocolate covered ice cream on a stick under the name ‘Macallè’. 

Macalle turned out not to be a great choice for a name for reasons I don’t quite understand, but it had something to do with the war in Ethiopia, and the fact that the Italians lost. When that happened, Boero’s grandfather decided a name change was in order so he re-christened his grandson’s ice cream creation,  ‘Pinguino.’
Clever Idea, Ice Cream on a Stick
Boero never patented his idea, never felt he needed too, until one day in 1948, a customer, who just happened to own an ice cream factory, introduced a new product to the Italian consumer, the Mottarello. You guessed it. Boero’s ice cream on a stick creation was now on sale throughout Italy, but not by Boero, but by Signor Angelo Motta.

But the story does not end there for up in that splendid, regal Piedmontese city of Torino, there is another gelateria which also claims to be the birthplace of the pinguino, and this part of the story starts with Dominic Pepino, an ambitious young man who owned a small ice cream shop in Naples.  
Pepino's in Torino 
Signor Pepino made very good ice cream, and while he was happy with his success, he also had big ideas, very big ideas. In 1884 he left Naples and moved to Piedmont to sell the citizens of Torino a product they had never heard of. Chocolate covered ice cream on a stick.

So clever was his approach he even managed to convince the Piedmontese nobility to try his ice cream. As a result he became the official ice cream supplier to the Royal House of Savoy which, as you probably know, ruled the Kingdom of Italy at the time. The royals were so pleased with the ice cream from Signor Pepino’s gelateria that he was awarded four ‘Royal Coats of Arms’, which are still part of the Pepino label today.
Fit for a King 
You can still buy gelato and ice cream on a stick at Pepino’s   original location in Piazza Carignano, in the heart of Torino. And as for the origin of the ‘pinguino’ let’s just say the two versions are brothers not of another mother, but of another father born more than 50 years apart. How can that be, you ask. Well, this is Italy and in Italy anything can happen – and it usually does.


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