Santo Musumeci: The best ice cream parlor in Sicily

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(CNN) – Pizza, Pasta, and Gelato: The Holy Trinity of Italian Food. And while the first two conquered the rest of the world, no other country has yet succeeded in making gelato quite as well as the Italians. A denser form of ice cream, contains less dairy and serves up a little ox..and spring…and winter.

Go for a walk any evening, in any town, any season in Italy and you’ll see people taking Walk (Picnic), gelato in hand.

“Gelato is comfort and goodness to me,” says Giovanna Musumeci. She knew – it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call the Gelato Queen in Sicily. Nationally acclaimed for its gels, Giovanna, daughter of one of its kings, the late Santo Musumesi, inherited his ice cream instinct and combined it with scientific recipes to make the best dessert possible. No wonder Santo Musumesi, in the small town of Randazzo, is consistently cited as one of the best – if not the best – places to find gelato in Sicily, and even Italy.

After her father’s death in February 2022, Giovanna Musumeci now runs a gelateria with her sisters Sandra and Carmen.

Ten years ago, following in her father’s footsteps couldn’t have been out of her mind.

change of heart

Giovanna Musumeci has returned to Randazzo, on the slopes of Etna, after a break in his career.

ollirg / Adobe Stock

Musumesi had a degree in economics and marketing, worked in tourism for 10 years, and promoted her region in Sicily – the interior of Catania, on the slopes of Mount Etna, where few foreigners traveled at that time.

But in 2012, things got worse at her job and she took some time to think about her next step.

“I didn’t feel comfortable and went home to understand what I wanted to do,” she says.

“Little by little I started to occupy myself with cake design – at that time, everyone was designing cake. Getting into gelato was by luck.”

Her father, who was already a well-respected gelateria, was taking part in a competition and needed an assistant. Musumeci decided to help him.

“I didn’t understand anything about gelato, but I started studying it, and found that I was passionate about it,” she says. “I realized I like gelato, not pastry making. I do both, but I prefer working with the cold stuff.”

And that was – love at first sight.

Although being her father’s daughter meant she had to work harder to prove herself, it gave her learning experiences she would never have had, Musumesi says.

Science meets gelato

Santo Musumesi is famous in the Italian gelato world.

Santo Musumesi is famous in the Italian gelato world.

Giovanna Musumesi

Her father introduced her to stars of the gelato world, including Luca Caviezel, who is widely regarded as the godfather of modern gelato. Caviezel brought science to what had previously been a more local equivalent, and imparted his knowledge to Musumeci via gelato-filled chats at his home in Catania.

The key to good gelato, she says, is balance.

“Luca has written books about this: How Much Protein, the Fat, How to Balance Gelato, because it’s so scientific. We work with ingredients that are completely different from each other: sugars that don’t freeze, fats and milk. We have to go together, so you guys need to know a little bit of Chemistry, then mathematically computed. Luca was the godfather of this method of making gelato.”

Musumesi, who opened gelato in Randazzo in 1967, had a natural instinct for gelato, Giovanna says.

“He never measured. He would put things down, taste them, say we need more of this and less, and we’ll base gelato on his taste. I don’t have that talent, so I use science.”

Her debut in the gelato industry led, in some ways, to a generational clash in the kitchen. Santo preferred sweeter flavors, while Giovanna had a more health-conscious taste.

“We started out scientifically, and my dad and I changed recipes. It just didn’t make sense to put as much sugar in gelato as people did 40 years ago. So science helped us improve what we already had.”

intergenerational struggle

Sicilians eat granita with brioche for breakfast.

Sicilians eat granita with brioche for breakfast.

Sergio Ametti / Moment RF / Getty Images

Her father was not very happy with her new career path, but not far from the competition. “He had 50 years of experience and knew what the duties, obligations, responsibilities, and troubles of running a gelateria were – he did everything to hold me back,” she says.

“Eventually he had health issues, realized he had to delegate and saw I wasn’t doing it for fun. In the end, he was proud of what I was doing. And although at first he looked at me as a Santo’s daughter – he was on the gelato world To work with me and check if I’m ok, and that took a while – but my dad helped me a lot. I wasn’t known.”

Today, gelateria is known for its award-winning flavors: Strafico, a blend of ripe figs and hazelnuts that won second prize in SIGEP, a national competition, in 2005; Pirandello, a blend of roasted almonds, caramel, lemon peel and chocolate, which won the popular vote at the Sharpeth Festival in 2012; and Oro Verde della Sicilia, which took first place on SIGEP in 2004, combines pistachios, tangerines and caramelized almonds.

All three of these recipes are Santo recipes—”we’d never take them,” says Giovanna, who’s also won several awards herself, but prefers to vary her flavors and try them regularly.

It’s not all about gelato either; In summer, it’s all about granita, the flavorful fluffy ice you’ll find all over Sicily.

“In Italy they make granita, but the granita is ours,” says Giovanna’s sister Sandra, who runs gelateria with her, adding flavors all summer long: strawberry, mango, cherry, raspberry, fig, prickly pear, and more, all made with local ingredients. .

area conversion

Giovanna turns local ingredients into desserts, like the purple cabbage granita.

Giovanna turns local ingredients into desserts, like the purple cabbage granita.

Giovanna Musumesi

In fact, promoting the local area is something Giovanna has supplemented from her previous job – now only doing it through production rather than planning tourist routes.

“I have a lot of people calling me and suggesting we use their stuff, and it’s a huge responsibility for me to turn them into gelato or granita,” she says. “There are young people who go out to Mount Etna and farm, and it is important to respect their work and their components.

It tells customers where the fruit is from, which often leads to new business for the producers.

“In a strange way I do the same thing as I did before,” she says. “I think it helps develop the area. I’m in a place that needs to grow alongside gelateria, so it’s not just about comfort, it’s about growing.”

In fact, when Santo Musumeci opened their gelato, his family wasn’t happy.

Musumeci was working in Giarre, on the coast of Catania; His wife, Anna Maria, whom he met on the bus, was studying there but came from Randazzo.

Musumeci was trained in pasticciere, which makes delicate Sicilian pastries. But when he decided to choose Randazzo for his first bar, his parents weren’t happy – he was so out of the way that they thought it wouldn’t work out.

Instead, it became so famous that it brought tourists to Randazzo, which had previously been for an hour inside. “Life has proven him right,” Giovanna says. Today, the area is becoming increasingly popular, bringing tourists not only for gelato but for wine made on the slopes of Mount Etna.

How to choose gelato

Giovanna tells stories through her gelato.

Giovanna tells stories through her gelato.

Lunati Photography / Italian Gourmet

The secret of its success? Tells the story of the area – and the gelato. Creating a flavor, she says, “starts with telling a story.” So for her “Heidi” flavour, she started with goat’s milk and pear.

“Then it can come from what happens when you go shopping, when you buy things to match. Or from meeting people. Or mixing colors — inspiration can come from everyday life,” she says.

She says that we eaters of gelato should ask the gelato makers for advice, if we want to choose well — as well as consult their ingredient book, which is often featured in the gelato industry.

“Look at the composition – you can put 2,000 things in gelato, but my theory is, if you don’t need it, don’t put it in it.

“You don’t need many ingredients to make a good gelato. If it’s a lemon granita, all you need is water, sugar, and lemon.”

She also recommends choosing a place that keeps gelato covered — usually in stainless steel pans — rather than on display.

Even if it’s visible, take a closer look at the gelato in its tub.

“If it’s dirty, or has liquid leaking out of it, I’d never buy it,” she says.

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