The history of Coviglia at the Caffè

Article by Michele Sergio published in Il Roma on 22 July 2018

Everyone loves ice cream, both big and small, especially in the summer because it is the best natural remedy to combat the Mediterranean summer heat.

The ice cream has very ancient origins: already in Roman times we ate something similar to our ice cream and was called “nivatae potiones”, a sort of cold dessert, obtained by preserving, in some quarries, the snow collected during the winters, to then bring it in city ”‹”‹during the warmer seasons, mixing it with other ingredients.

To get to the ice cream, so to speak modern, however, we must wait, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, XVII century Palermo gentleman, who moved to Paris to the court of the Sun King, who opened the first coffee-ice cream parlor in history, still famous today and world renowned, the Procope coffee, where customers served their own portions of ice cream in various flavors.

In Naples and throughout the Duo-Sicilian reign under the Bourbon kings, ice cream was widespread and from all over Europe people came to eat it (it is often mentioned by the famous Grand Tour travelers). There were real “snow routes” that were traveled to bring the ice from the snowy mountains to the caves beneath the city (the current underground Naples). So much was the variety and the goodness of our ice creams that even after the unification of Italy, when Naples was no longer capital, so many famous people, such as the princess of Austria Sissi, went to our city to taste them .

In addition to the classic artisan ice cream, the Neapolitan ice cream makers have, over the centuries, proposed other recipes, which today are part of the great tradition of Neapolitan ice cream: from the sorbet (cold dessert to the spoon, usually served inside the fruit itself, and considered the progenitor of artisanal ice cream) to the spumone (classic ice cream of Neapolitan origin and widespread in Salento with semi-spherical shape formed by two layers, the first more internal, a sort of mousse and the second, the outermost part, is true ice cream, usually flavored with cream, strawberry, chocolate or coffee).

Among all the recipes the most loved by the Neapolitans, however, is undoubtedly the coviglia, artisan semifreddo halfway between an ice cream and a pastry, animator of family gatherings and home parties, which has as its hallmark that of being served in characteristic shorts, a time of silver metal, now generally made of plastic.

A great guru of the restaurant, like Vincenzo Corrado, chef and gastronome active in Naples between ‘700 and’ 800, already mentioned in his treatises as “chocolate foam”: “After a few hours they will fill the cuviglie, or be jars , and they will go to snow “(the” cuviglie “were, precisely, containers in which they placed sweet foams to be stored in the cold). The great writer Matilde Serao, who even described it in her book Il Paese di Cuccagna, was also very fond of it. The coviglia is generally chocolate, strawberry or hazelnut, although the most popular and sought after in the local and ice cream parlors of the capital of Campania is that of coffee.

But how can Coviglia be made coffee in our homes? Here is the classic recipe for eight people: prepare 100 g of egg white and 100 g of sugar, pour into a bowl and blend for three minutes until a mousse is created. The mousse should be mixed with the whipped cream (which is made with 180 ml of liquid pastry cream and 30 g of powdered sugar by implementing the same procedure). Mix the two compounds with a wooden spoon, after adding two cups of coffee. Leave everything in the freezer for three hours. Take the coffee mousse and pour it into 8 small glasses. Nice summer surprise to be offered to their guests at the end of dinner as a cold dessert.