Oddono’s Italian Gelati

Life’s too short to eat bad ice cream! is the slogan of Oddono’s Italian Gelati on Bute Street in South Kensington. It’s a phrase that rings music to my ears. You’ll usually find a crowd of French students from the nearby lycée perched on stools or sitting at tables out front, enjoying the best scoops in London or a hot Belgian waffle.

Oddono’s declares its mission is to offer fresh natural Italian gelato, produced daily using house recipes and fresh whole milk and double cream. Quite often I wander into the shop and am always rewarded with a scoop so delicious I wonder why I’m not there every day. I love sitting and listening to the chatter of idling students and marvelling how this tiny but cosmopolitan street in South Ken recreates the spirit of soignée, sidewalk life of Paris.

Oddono’s has made over 130 flavours, including smoked-Scottish salmon, fresh mustard, cinnamon, basil, chocolate and cognac, vodka lemon, and chocolate ginger and chilli. They vary the flavours on sale, so there is always a new treat to taste. Only about 10 flavours are on offer at a time.

These artisans are proud that their confections continue the Italian origins of ice cream, which date back several thousand years, when ancient cultures enjoyed snow and ice flavoured with honey and fruit. Ice houses deep underground were common in Arabic counties like Persia to keep and preserve ice. These and other ice preservation techniques were exported to Sicily by Arab traders. Sorbet, which comes from the Arabic word sharbat meaning “sweet snow,” became popular in Sicily during the Arabic colonization. Sweetened ices began to flourish in Naples, Florence, Milan and Venice and eventually spread to France and England.

The first ice cream was the brain child of a Florentine architect painter and sculptor Bernardo Buontaleneti, who organized luxurious parties for the Spanish Court. He invented ice cream dishes based on zabaglione and fruit. These were introduced by him to lavish European menus.

The first ice cream parlour was opened in Paris in 1686 by a young Sicilian fisherman, Procopio dei Coltelli, who invented a device for making ice cream using old Sicilian recipes. The Café Procopé opened in rue de l’Ancienne Comedie, just in front of the Comedie Française. The Café Procopé was such a success offering a big choice of ice creams and sorbets that it came to the attention of the Sun King. Intellectuals began congregating there, and Voltaire had a table permanently reserved. Chopin, George Sand, Balzac and Victor Hugh, Baudelaire, Rousseau, and Oscar Wilde continued the tradition of the gathering of sages at ice cream parlours.

Yesterday I choose a cone of Madagascar Vanilla with hazelnuts from Piedmont. As I savoured it I pondered the joys of this delicious concoction with such a colourful past and thought Viva gelati!

— Mrs M

Oddono’s Gelati Italiani
14 Bute Street
020 7052 0732

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