How Italian-style ice cream became a New Orleans institution
Angelo Brocato immigrated to New Orleans from Sicily in the early 1900s, following a long apprenticeship at an ice cream and pastries parlor in Paloma. He opened his own shop in the French Quarter, introducing New Orleans to Italian-style ice cream. The first flavor he debuted was torroncino: vanilla gelato with cinnamon and almonds. Following soon after was granita al limone, more simply known as lemon ice. Both flavors are still very popular today.
In 1928, Brocato’s presented a new dessert to New Orleans: Alkeno Ice Cream. Angelo received a US patent for Akeno on April 24, 1929, which guaranteed him exclusive rights to the name and dish, which was advertised as “ice cream with fruit built in the middle of it. … A refreshing and delicious dish ideal for serving at parties and bridge games.” It was a popular dish for decades.
When Angelo died in 1946, his widow and children took over the business, expanding it and growing their customer base by placing their packaged ice creams and cookies at local grocers and restaurants.
In the 1960s, the St. Joseph’s Day Altar at Brocato’s became so well attended that they decided to host it for three days – the only altar in New Orleans to do so. Starting on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, the artistic tower of breads and sweets was accompanied by sales of green ice cream and spumoni to the throngs of Irish that flooded in. The general public came on the 18th, and then for the last day – St. Joseph’s Day – the Italians pushed in for their Italian seed cookies, spumoni and casseta.
Brocato’s moved to their current Mid-City location in 1979. Located at 214 N. Carrollton Ave., it retains its old Italian feel while also providing more space to expand their wholesale and retail business. Locals and tourists both come in for fresh-to-order cannolis, gelato, ices and pastries, as well as take-home whole cakes and party treats.
As Brocato’s gained success, they moved to a larger location at 617 Ursulines Ave., where they were able create a shop that reflected the more elegant style of the Italian shops in which Angelo had learned his trade. Photographed at the Ursulines shop are his wife and two sons, c. 1960.