March 29, 2022

A brief history of gelato

Join us in this journey through time and space, following the origin of ice cream

Botolino reveals that Ancient Palestine reapers and Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs compressed snow in slush form, creating the first form of gelato. The first recipe for gelato was successfully conducted in Rome but the fall of the Roman empire meant the frozen delicacy disappeared. The Arabic form of gelato was more refined & lighter – titled “sherbert” and was introduced back into Southern European regions. The Crusaders brought the Arabic sherbert back to Northern Europe too. 

During the Renaissance, three Italian men – Ruggieri, Buontalenti & Coltelli – were known as the first gelatieri (gelato makers). Ruggieri concocted a sorbetto deemed the most delicious dessert ever, Buontalenti first introduced milk & eggs into the mixture and Coltelli used sugar instead of honey and mixed salt with the ice to make it cooler.

When was ice cream invented?

After Italian-native Giovanni Bosio relocated to New York City in 1770, he paved the way for New Yorkers and Americans alike to create their own alternative to manufacturing Italian gelato. It was a historical event in the history of ice cream. After setting up shop and opening his profitable gelateria in the city, customers adhered to the new dessert and fell in love with Italian-born delicacy. Eventually, Americans, in general, began making changes to the original recipe and started producing what was soon to be known as ice cream – to the dismay of present Italian gelato purists. As you know from our piece about the difference between gelato and ice cream, Italians tend to be quite protective with their foods!

During the same period, Nancy Johnson made history with the invention of a hand-cranked ice cream maker and a certain Fuller did the same in Europe. This soon led to the result of gelato being overshadowed by ice cream. 

Without a cone, it would seem the frozen treat was missing something, but thanks to Italo Marconi, the first cone mould was to be invented – essentially making the consumption of ice cream easier. 

Okay, but where does ice cream actually come from?

Not to hinder its Italian heritage, ice cream history first originated in China when frozen milk & rice pudding was assorted and explored by Marco Polo who was on his travels at the time, relaying the Chinese method to his country upon his return to Italy. We can say, though, that the Italians deserved the credit for the global expansion of gelato, as you would expect. 

However, the question of which country invented ice cream? and was ice cream invented in Italy? Could now endeavour more malice than agreement, but with factual evidence now defrosted, it is said that the ice cream origin first stemmed from China, then to Italy and as one would expect, then to the rest of the world!

The modern history of gelato

Who invented gelato? You may ask: well, the victorious progression of gelato can be traced back to the three men who are called the first gelatierigelato makers. Cosimo Ruggieri, Bernardo Buontalenti and Francesco Coltelli all contributed to historical advancements in gelato as we know today. 

Ruggieri was once a chicken seller who impressed the court of Caterina de Medici with his sorbetto, whilst in competition to “prepare a singular dish never seen before”. Ruggieri later accompanied Caterina to France, where he taught his recipe to French cooks. 

Later, Buontalenti, who was a famous painter, architect & engineer, has been credited as the inventor of gelato due to his introduction of milk and eggs to the gelato mixture. 

Lastly, enter Coltelli, a Sicilian fisherman who inherited a contraption used to produce sorbetto who contributed the use of sugar in substitute to honey, and mixed salt with ice to make the gelato colder. He soon relocated to Paris, opening Cafe Procope. 

More modern advancements in the history of gelato involve the invention of a refrigerated batch freezer which granted manufacturers the opportunity to consistently and rapidly produce gelato. 

After the slow release of original-recipe gelato, throughout the 1920s to 1930s, street vendors granted accessibility for the general public to consume gelato. 

Following on, from the 1960s to the 1990s, the production of pastes & powders – also known as additives in present-day terminology – flavored gelato to make the process easier. Despite the convenience, this alternative lowered the quality of the gelato and made offerings more standardized. However, the Slow Food Movement resulted in the return to value ingredients & artisanal methods and elaborate on delicious flavors, including the classic stracciatella. Invented by Enrico Panattoni in 1962: the gelato entrepreneur made gelato run through shards of dark chocolate, creating its unique texture instead of cracking eggs into the mixture. 

Now gelato has transcended beyond Italian borders, we can appreciate the traditional craft of the frozen delicacy. 

Gelato today – trends and innovations

Modern advances in the food & beverage industry present exciting opportunities to the sector, not just in the consumption of products but also what goes into the service before a product is consumed. Here at Remeo Gelato we pride ourselves on our sustainable 100% plant-based packaging that is easily recyclable, accompanied by a mouth-watering range of gelato & sorbetto varieties, so everyone can enjoy the final course! Is gelato vegan? Is the question we get asked a lot at Remeo and with a taste like no other, we had to make a vegan-friendly range! To sum up the sheer evolution of gelato, it is expected that by 2024 the market will grow to nearly $75 billion, with a 30% increase since 2017!

The mass development of gelato across the world isn’t much of a surprise when flavours that melt in your mouth exist in almost every corner of the world, with the classic chocolate at number in the United States, almond holds the top spot in Australia and of course one of our best sellers here at Remeo Gelato – Mascarpone gelato with two delicious layers of raspberry and biscuits!