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Monday, September 3, 2012

Dianne Gets a Grattachecca

Unidentified English woman ordering a grattachecca
We had just come out of the Napoleon museum, having spent a glorious 20 minutes looking at a huge map of Napoleon's exploits in Italy--before it was Italy, of course.  It was another hot day in a hot Roman summer, and Dianne decided she had to have a grattachecca.  I had no idea what that was, but there was a grattachecca stand across the street on the sidewalk that lines the Tevere, under some London plane trees that are common here. 

Ice cake
A grattachecca is cousin to the American snow cone, but with shaved rather than ground ice, and served in a cup rather than a cone, with a spoon and straw.  That doesn't explain the word, "grattachecca," because, although "gratta" plausibly means "grated," "checca" does not mean ice--at least not in regular Italian.  According to Wikipedia, one story of the delicacy's origins is that it was first enjoyed in ancient Rome, when emperor Quintus Fabius Maximus brought snow from Mount Terminillo, in the Appenines. 

Shaving the ice.  That's the Napoleon museum
at right, across the Lungotevere

Two guys run the stand.  One is responsible for the ice that goes into the cup: he removes the cover from the block of ice, shaves enough for one cone, and replaces the cover.  Though he's not a waiter, he also looks after the several small tables and chairs.  The other guy does everything else: assembles the grattachecca (adds flavoring: Dianne got green apple), takes your money, and sells the other things--water, soft drinks, panini, beer, and fresh coconut--that are part of the business.  It works.

When Dianne gets these ideas, she always asks if I want one, too.  I always say no, and I always eat part of hers.  This also works.

This was the best grattachecca I've ever had, and also the only one.  Our Italian friends, of course, couldn't wait to tell us which are their favorite grattachecca stands, and this one ranked fairly high on the list.  It's about 200 yards north of Piazza Navona.


In the shade of the Sycamores
The same stand, at night... the stands are particularly evocative
late into Roman evenings, as one tools around on a scooter, especially

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