With city temperatures peaking at 40 degrees centigrade this month, I’ve been seeking out the cooler locales of town – not least, the gelaterias.
Fassi’s is one of my favourites. Claiming to be the ‘oldest ice cream factory in Rome’ it offers tens of different flavours, and two generous scoops for just €1.60
A bit of history…
The ice cream dynasty, which remains in the hands of the Fassi family, was founded at the end of the nineteenth century by Giacomo Fassi, who opened a small kiosk selling ice and beer in the via delle Quattro Fontane. When Giacomo’s son Giovanni took over the business, he served up his fare to the king, earning the nickname of the “king’s ice cream maker” whilst working at the royal residence. This sparky character soon broke free to set up his own business, after the king ordered all the kitchen staff to shave and he was simply unwilling to part from his tache. In 1928 he took his ice cream business to Via Principe Eugenio where it remains today.
Although they display photos of Italian workers from the early twentieth century – a signal to the house’s heritage – the factory today is a far more international affair. A proportion of the staff is Bangladeshi and a key segment of their custom comes from the Chinese community, who are often to be seen enjoying humungous portions of Fassi’s sumptuous gelato…Perhaps less of a surprise when one learns that during World War II, the American Red Cross took over the activity for two years, producing ice cream for American troops.
The house is unusual in having a lot of seating space and a small courtyard outside. So once you’ve got your gelato, you can enjoy it along with the spectacle of customers trying to demolish spectacularly grand mounds of sumptuous ice cream. I’ve met some interesting people there, including Aldo, a Neapolitan server. And my flatmate bought an unforgettable ice cream cake there for her birthday. I could never bring myself to buy an ice cream sandwich though.