Got Granita? Savoring A Summertime Sweet In Italy

granita con caffe
Chris, Flickr

It will officially be summer in just a few days, and who doesn’t associate long, hot days with ice cream? Or, depending upon your preferences, lactose-digesting capabilities, and what part of the world you’re in, gelato, sorbet, paletas, kulfi, faloodeh, bur bur cha cha or other sweet, frozen treats served around the world.

Gelato is obviously past its tipping point in the U.S, but the granita still isn’t a well-known part of the general populace’s culinary lexicon. In Italy, however, this grainy frozen dessert is a summertime staple. Granite (plural of granita) refers to a dessert that’s scraped at intervals as it freezes, in order to form larger crystals than a typical sorbetto. A true granita should have a coarse texture because it’s made by hand, rather than processed in a machine, which results in a slush.

Coffee or espresso with a bit of sugar is the most commonly used flavoring for granite. Known as granita di café or caffe freddo, this refreshing treat is best served con panna; with unsweetened whipped cream. The first time I ever had one was in Florence, on a freakishly hot October day. Like millions before me, I left crowded the Galleria dell’ Accademia after viewing Michelangelo’s David, thirsty, sweaty, and grumpy.

Several blocks down via Ricasoli, I happened upon a little shop called Gelato Carabé . I was drawn by the wafts of sugary, perfumed air, but it was the menu and hand-crafted appearance of the gelati (mass-produced stuff is often sold out of plastic tubs, but it also tends to look manufactured, and just a little too perfect) that sold me on the place.

eating gelato
minka6, Flickr

The customer in front of me turned away from the counter clutching a cup filled with a rough-looking iced concoction, topped with a soft mound of whipped cream. Its color suggested it contained caffeine. I asked, in crappy Italian, what it was. And then I ordered my first-ever granita di café con panna. Instant addiction. The melding of flavors and textures – bitter espresso, a hint of sugar, grainy ice, silky cream – was the ideal salve for my museum-and-crowd-addled soul.

I returned to the gelateria every day for the remainder of my trip. After I returned home, I learned that owners Antonio and Loredana Lisciandro are from Patti, on Sicily’s northern coast. Antonio’s grandfather was a gelatio, or gelato master, and Antonio became a leading authority on gelato, as well. FYI, gelato has less air incorporated into it than American ice cream, which results in a more dense, flavorful product. Depending upon the region in which it’s made, it may contain eggs, or use cream instead of milk.

The Lisciandro’s import seasonal ingredients from Sicily, including pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds, and the intensely flavored native lemons, which have a thick, bumpy skin. They produce rich, creamy gelati, cremolati (cremolata is similar to sherbet, but made with fresh fruit pulp instead of filtered juice; both are made with milk or cream, whereas sorbetto is dairy-free), and the aforementioned ethereal granite.

Today, Gelato Carabé has two locations in Florence. I’ve since had granita di café con panna all over Italy (I highly recommend enjoying it overlooking the Sant’ Angelo harbor on the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples). Barring that, I suggest using this recipe. Get a copy of Laura Fraser’s delicious “An Italian Affair” (which is how I learned about Ischia in the first place). Spoon granita into a pint glass (let’s not kid ourselves with a foofy parfait-style). Find a relaxing place in the shade, and then savor summer, Italian-style.

Photo Of The Day: Guatemalan Ice Cream Truck

Photo of the Day - Guatemalan ice cream
Adam Baker, Flickr


I’m traveling in Sicily this week, and was reminded how crummy the aptly named Continental breakfast can be in this part of Europe: a cup of coffee (the only time of day it is socially acceptable to have a cappuccino, incidentally) and a roll or small pastry. While I’m not a person who starts every day with steak, eggs and a short stack, the Italian “breakfast” makes me yearn for an English fry-up, or the protein-heavy array of cheeses in Turkey and Russia. The good news (for me, at least) is that in Sicily in the summer, it is customary to have gelato for breakfast. An ideal scoop of a nutty flavor like pistachio, tucked inside a slightly sweet brioche, makes for a quite satisfying breakfast sandwich. Ice cream is a thing we tend to eat more of on vacation, and it’s always fun to try local flavors and variations. You know, in the name of cultural research.

Today’s Photo of the Day by Flickr user AlphaTangoBravo shows an ice cream cart in Guatemala. Guatemalans love to add strawberry syrup to their ice cream, and carts are found year-round in Antigua, but sensitive stomachs should be warned: the street cart stuff is likely to cause worse than an ice cream headache.

Share your travel food photos in the Gadling Flickr pool (Creative Commons, please) and you might see it as a future Photo of the Day.

Photo Of The Day: Howard Johnson Neon Signage

There’s something so mundane yet fascinating about neon road signage. The services advertised are simple: a clean bed, a comforting meal or a quirky roadside attraction. Yet visually, these neon wonders never fail to grab drivers’ (or photographers’) attention. Today’s photo by Flickr user JasonBechtel is case in point. The brilliant pinks, blues and greens combined with the unique typeface are both eye-catching a familiar: like an old friend from the road welcoming you back into town.

Taken any great photos of neon signs during your travels? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Road Trip Idea: East Coast Ice Cream Trails

The bourbon trail draws crowds of whiskey swillers to Kentucky, but further north several states have introduced treks that appeal to trailblazers of all tastes (and ages). These pilgrimages center around America’s favorite dessert: ice cream. If you’re visiting or passing through one of these areas this summer, be sure to pull over at a roadside farm to enjoy a scoop or two.

Maryland Ice Cream Trail: Announced last week, the Maryland Ice Cream Trail includes seven creameries throughout the state that create frozen delights on site. To promote area dairy farms and the states official beverage, milk, Maryland’s Department of Agriculture put together an ice cream passport that can be stamped at each location. Those who collect all the stamps by Labor Day can submit it to the department to be entered in to a drawing to win – you guessed it – more ice cream.

Connecticut’s Sundae Drives: In Connecticut, map out your own tasty trail with the help of the Sundae Drives brochure, which has more than 60 picks for ice cream. From soft serve to sorbet, this is one state that will satisfy your frozen cravings (and they’ve got beer ice cream and soy ice cream, too).

New Hampshire’s Ice Cream Trail: Finally, New Hampshire has an Ice Cream Trail featuring 32 creameries. Pick a classic like mint chip churned up at Bishop’s Homemade, or try something a little more adventurous like ginger ice cream or Dinosaur Crunch (vanilla ice cream dyed blue and served with chocolate and brownie chunks) at Arnie’s Place.

[Photo by TheCulinaryGeek, Flickr]

Woman Involved in Hit-and-Run Escapes So Ice Cream Won't Melt

SkyMall Monday: Food Pillows

gadling food pillows Some decisions are easy because you simply don’t have a choice. The decision is made for you when there’s only one option. Others force you to pick between two worthy candidates (think ice cream or cookies for dessert). Things get tricky when you encounter more than two viable options. How do you choose from a cornucopia of wonder? Here at SkyMall Monday, we typically engage in heated battles of Rock, Paper, Scissors to make these critical decisions. However, sometimes we become so paralyzed by the options that we can’t make up our minds. What do you do when presented with so many outstanding products? That’s the dilemma we’re facing this week thanks to SkyMall. To solve the problem, we’re turning to you, dear readers. Help us decide which of these will become the Official Food Pillow of SkyMall Monday.Food pillows? They’re pillows that look like foods. Too hard to eat, just soft enough to enjoy. Don’t believe me? Check out the product description:

We dreamed we ate an ice cream sandwich and when we woke up our pillow was gone…

Completely dreamy pillows look like the real thing, right down to the delicious detailing.

Dreamy pillows? That’s a delicious play on words right there!

But which pillow is the most palatable? Let’s look at the contestants:

gadling food pillow cupcakeSushi – Something smells fishy, but it’s not your pillow. Naps on this will only leave you feeling fresh (though you should probably take a shower because, unlike your pillow, you smell pretty foul).

Cupcake – Ever wish that you could have an extra large cupcake? As if it were some sort of, I don’t know, cake.

Pizza – No need to blot the grease off of this pizza before you plant your face on it!

Ice Cream Sandwich – Not the sexiest option from the Good Humor man, but better than a pillow with a gross gumball nose.

So many fantastic options. But only one can be named the Official Food Pillow of SkyMall Monday. Seriously, we need one of these for SkyMall Monday headquarters. But which one?! Vote below to help us decide!

%Poll-72963%

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.