Arthur Brocato's grandfather, Angelo Brocato, first opened a gelato shop in the French Quarter in 1905, modeling it after the gelaterias where he'd learned the trade in his hometown of Palermo, Sicily. In 1979, the family moved the shop, Angelo Brocato's Ice Cream and Confectionery (214 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-1465; www.angelobrocatoicecream.com), to its present Mid-City location in 1979. With St. Joseph's Day coming up next week, they're busy preparing biscotti and other treats, especially cuccidati, the Italian fig cookie.
Gambit icon: Is there a seasonal ebb and flow to your products?
Brocato: In the Sicilian tradition, you made gelato from Easter Sunday until it started to get cool in October or so. Then you switched to cookies and confections, and the last day for those was Easter Sunday. That's exactly the way we did things too, until probably close to 1950 when people's habits started to change. Today, we get busy for Christmas, and then there's a lull when everyone is dealing with king cakes. That's when we start gearing up for St. Joseph's Day, for the big cookie season. Everything is handmade, so you start early in the year just for that holiday.
G: Is the gelato side of the business seasonal too?
B: We've always been very traditional. We didn't get our first freon freezer until 1951; before that we were still packing barrels of gelato with ice and salt. The original shop was close to the French Market, and whatever was seasonal at the market then was what we used. We still do that today with our seasonal flavors, so we have sanguinello (blood orange) now, by April or May you get blackberry and in the summer you're seeing peach, cantaloupe, watermelon.
G: What makes your Italian cookies special?
B: They're not really too sweet, and they're very durable. Butter was a luxury back in Sicily, so most Sicilian desserts didn't usually have butter or a lot of lard, and that gives them some of their character today. They weren't intended to be eaten just on their own. You dip them in coffee or wine. After dinner, you have a couple of biscotti and a glass of Marsala and you're set for the night.