Spumoni: Love It or Leave It?

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When it came to ice cream, I thought I had tried it all: gelato, sorbet, low-fat, super-premium, soft-serve, frozen yogurt, sherbet, scoops, cones, sandwiches, sundaes—the list goes on and on. But last week, for the first time in my life, I had spumoni.

I was blown away—it tasted like a cross between ice cream and Italian ice, with tiny bits of fruit and nuts mixed in. The cup I had, at Brooklyn's legendary L & B Spumoni Gardens, was a combination of chocolate, vanilla, and pistachio. After all that pizza I was only intending on eating a bite or two, but it was so delicious that I devoured the entire thing.

The next day I did a little research. Where had this delicious dessert been all my life? According to Wikipedia, spumoni originated in Naples and is the ancestor of Neapolitan ice cream (think layers of chocolate, cream, and fruit). Today spumoni has all but vanished in Italy but is prevalent in the United States in places with large Italian immigrant populations. Classic spumoni is a blend of three flavors: chocolate, pistachio, and cherry. Sometimes whipped cream is folded in. Often, it is frozen into a mold and served in thick slices. That was about all I could come up with. The history of spumoni, it seems, is a bit shrouded in mystery.

What I found most surprising was that people seemed wildly divided when it came to the merits of spumoni. Some loved it while others loathed it, citing the fact that it is even sweeter than ice cream and can be much too sugary. Others claimed that the versions of spumoni they had tried tasted largely artificial, especially the fruit layers.

I'm curious to know what the Serious Eats readers think. Is spumoni great or gross? Where are the best kinds found? And in this era of fancy frozen yogurt, are old-fashioned ice cream treats on the way to extinction?

About the author: Lucy Baker is a graduate student in the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. Before returning to school to pursue an MFA, she was an assistant cookbook editor at HarperCollins. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently obsessed with all things fennel.

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