I was at a sidewalk café in Bologna when, in my tourist Italian, I ordered an iced coffee. The waiter looked a bit puzzled. He called the manager. I repeated what I thought was a request for iced coffee. The manager smiled, said “si, si,” and they went off into the interior of the café.
A few minutes later, the waiter returned carrying a small bowl containing a scoop of vanilla gelato atop a puddle of espresso. The combination of hot espresso and cold gelato reminded me of a hot fudge sundae but subtler, more grown-up. Bittersweet rather than simply sweet. It was sublime.
Subsequently, I learned that this is called gelato affogato, or drowned ice cream. It’s a traditional Italian treat, and one that’s perfect on a hot summer day whether you’re in sitting in a sidewalk café in Bologna or in your kitchen in Boston or Boise.
Sometimes not being fluent in a language leads to serendipity. But I’m glad that I now know how to order it correctly. And that I didn’t get that iced coffee.
Simply pour hot (but not boiling hot) espresso over the best vanilla gelato or ice cream you can buy or make. Vary it by adding a splash of coffee liqueur or change up the ice cream flavor. Coffee is excellent.