Angelo Brocato Ice Cream and Pastry shop has been serving up gelato and Italian sweets in New Orleans since 1905. The first storefront, which was opened by Angelo Brocato, Sr., was located in the French Quarter on Ursuline Street. Grandson Arthur Brocato moved the shop to its current location on Carrollton in Mid-City after taking over from his father, Angelo Brocato, Jr, in the mid-1980s. A beloved staple in the hearts, minds and bellies of generations of New Orleanians, Arthur and his family have maintained the sweet creations that bring his customers back to celebrate family occasions, holidays, a warm summer day, or, this month, St. Joseph’s Day.
Q: What cookies do you make for St. Joseph’s Day? The key items we make are the fig cookies, in various shapes and sizes. We can make larger figures, such as the crucifix, the chalice, palm, the heart. We can’t make the more intricate shapes that people sometimes make at home because it just takes too much time.
Q: How do you prepare for St. Joseph’s Day and how many cookies do you bake? We have to start well in advance of that week. We usually start before Mardi Gras. This year that’s mid-February. We will probably make around 800 pounds of fig cookies. Christmas and St. Joseph’s Day are some of our busiest times of the year.
Q: When did you start working in the family business? I started when I was kid, around nine years old. When we were in the Quarter, we lived a couple of blocks away, and we would go in on the Saturday and Sunday, when we weren’t in school, and work for a few hours. We had table service then in the evenings, and you could make a little tip money filling water glasses and so forth. We progressed into other tasks, especially in the summer. We would fold boxes, sweep the sawdust from the floor, juice lemons and strawberries for the lemon ice and strawberry ice, fill cannoli.
Q: How has the business changed through the years? When I was a kid, the business was more ethnic. Our customers were people of Sicilian origin, and they would come in for their cookies, for baptisms, weddings, the holidays. Now those people are gone. We now have branched into the general population. Also, we have a bigger variety of products. We had slices of frozen ice cream. Now we have 24 flavors on display in addition to the traditional flavors. We want to keep it traditional, but also keep it current.
Q: Do you see generations and the same families coming in? We definitely see the same people coming in. We opened at this location almost 40 years ago. When we first opened the Carrollton store, my wife and I lived in the back, so we were here 24-7. We got to know our customers. We had time to sit down with them and have a conversation. It is rewarding. We see some people who first came in as kids that now have kids of their own, or even grandkids.
Q: What’s your favorite thing from your menu? I have so many favorites. When I want something cool and refreshing, I like the lemon ice or the strawberry ice, especially when we have fresh Louisiana strawberries. As far as pastries…it’s funny when I was a kid, I didn’t like cannoli. There’s so much going on with a cannoli. You have the crunch, the ricotta, the nuts, the chocolate chips. I was never fond of them as a kid. I like them now, but if I have to pick a favorite, I choose the rum cake. That’s my sweet.
AT A GLANCE
Born: New Orleans at D’Ingianni Foundation Hospital ( St. Claude General now).
Grew up: in the French Quarter on Dauphine St. between Ursuline and St. Phillip Streets. Just 2 blocks from the Ursuline St. store.
Education: St. Louis Cathedral School, Redemptorist High School, Loyola University BBA in Accounting.
Favorite Book: The Godfather.
Favorite Music: Rock & Roll, 50’s, 60’s, Italian, & Classical.
Favorite Restaurant: Acropolis Cusine.
Favorite Flavor Ice Cream: Baci (Chocolate Hazelnut).
True Confession: I go to Baskin-Robbins for their Winter White Chocolate Ice Cream.