The real story of the Italian gelato
ICE CREAM AND CATHERINE DE’ MEDICI
The real triumph of cold dessert occurred in the sixteenth century, after the discovery of America and the arrival on the continent of new varieties of fruits, spices, tea, coffee, cocoa. At DE MEDICI court in Florence drinks similar to sorbets were served to guests.
Two Florentines changed the course of history and the recipe for ice cream. The first was Ruggeri, a Florentine seller of chickens, who once participated in a competition called “the most unusual dish you ever seen,” organized by DE MEDICI family, and won with his “frozen dessert.” From that day on Ruggeri became famous throughout the region.
It is said that when Catherine de’ Medici married Henri d’Orleans, the future King of France, she wanted Ruggeri to move with her to Paris to show French chefs that Italians were better at cooking.
It so happened that while many of the nobles wanted him in their palace, he was hated by the other cooks. Ruggeri could not bear this stress and decided to return to his first job at the chicken coop. Before leaving, however, he left to Catherine de Medici his recipe for ice cream.
The real boom of ice cream as a dessert occurred around the year 1500 in Florence at the court of the Medici. In fact, ice cream as we know it today was quite similar to what was served at the wedding feast of Catherine de Medici, queen of France and a distant cousin of Cosimo I, patron of the world-famous Uffizi Gallery.
BERNARDO BUONTALENTI, THE INVENTOR OF ICE CREAM IN FLORENCE
Around the same time, Bernardo Buontalenti, an architect, sculptor, painter, and designer, worked at the grand-ducal court in Florence. One day, Buontalenti was tasked with organizing celebrations in welcome of Spanish guests of the Grand Duke. He staged theatrical performances and fireworks, but most importantly prepared a cream flavored with bergamot, lemons, and oranges, and chilled with a mixture of his own invention.
The main ingredients are imported from Italy following the traditional recipe of DE MEDICI family who invented the the modern Italian Gelato around the year 1530 during a competition called “the most unusual dish you ever seen".