Amy BizzarriChicago Tribune
Link to original article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/foodfocus/ct-food-spumoni-chicago-how-to-recipe-0711-story.html
Casamassima, located at the heel of the boot in the Italian province of Bari, is well-known for its almond orchards, which are among the earliest fruit trees to be domesticated in this corner of the Mediterranean. It’s no surprise that many of the small town’s desserts make use of the slightly sweet nut. Throughout southern Italy, spumoni typically calls for three layers: almond, semi-sweet chocolate and stracciatella (fior di latte gelato, a pure form of ice cream minus the flavorings and studded with bits of dark chocolate).
We have the Lezza family to thank for introducing the semifreddo delight to dessert tables across Chicagoland.
In 1905, Salvatore Lezza left his hometown of Nola, just outside Naples, his precious family recipe for spumoni tucked into a notebook among his few belongings. In Chicago, he met his match in Lucia Ferrara of the famed Ferrara Pan candy company, and the sweet duo married and poured their hearts into Ferrara-Lezza & Co., a former cornerstone of Chicago’s West Side Little Italy, once the neighborhood’s go-to place for cakes, cannoli and spumoni. Later, the family was forced to relocate their beloved bakery to west suburban Bellwood, when the expressways and the University of Illinois at Chicago were constructed in the 1960s.
"Salvatore and Lucia’s two sons, Victor Sr. and Jack, confidently thought to expand the family business and began an effort to sell their spumoni to local restaurants," explained Louis Lezza, who is not only the director of sales for Lezza Spumoni, but also the great-great-grandson of Salvatore Lezza. "Lezza spumoni met with such success it was featured in the Italian Pavilion during the 1933 World’s Fair and soon was sold wholesale to area restaurants." To this day, if you encounter spumoni on a dessert menu in Chicagoland, the chances are it was made by Lezza.
Lezza spumoni features four distinctive gelato flavors — rum, chocolate, strawberry and pistachio — with a creamy, whipped cream center dotted with candied fruits. The family still corners the spumoni market in Chicagoland and now boasts a retail outlet, Lezza Spumoni & Desserts, in Elmhurst, where you'll find every Italian pastry under the sun: sfogliatelle, biscotti, cannoli, tiramisu, granita and, best of all, the handcrafted spumoni that put the Lezza family into the annals of Italian-American food history. Salvatore Lezza's original spumoni recipe — the same recipe that is still in use today — is still kept in the tiny, treasured and now tattered notebook he carried with him as he made his way from Italy to America by boat, at the company's Bellwood headquarters.
This summer, you'll also find a new take on classic spumoni, created by chef Kym DeLost-Cuschieri, at Loop favorite Acanto, on Michigan Avenue, overlooking Millennium Park.
"I grew up eating spumoni, and it was one of my favorite summer treats when I was a kid," shared DeLost-Cuschieri. "When I moved to Chicago, I was hard-pressed to find it, and I knew I needed to add it to the dessert menu at Acanto."
DeLost-Cuschieri keeps the traditional layers in place but kicks the classic recipe up a few notches by adding amarena cherries and Armagnac. Try her version at the restaurant or a simplified recipe for the home cook below.
In honor of National Spumoni Day on Aug. 21, Lezza Spumoni & Desserts, 544 Spring Road, Elmhurst, will roll back spumoni prices (usually $3.85 per slice) to 50 cents per slice.
Prep: 40 minutes
Chill: 3 hours, 45 minutes
Makes: One 9-by-5 loaf pan, 12 servings
Chef Kymberli DeLost-Cuschieri of Acanto makes spumoni in large batches that yield 5 quarts and call for mixing the three flavors separately then layering them for the final dessert. Tribune test kitchen chef Shannon Kinsella adapted DeLost-Cuschieri’s technique, using store-bought ice cream and stirring in the pastry chef’s suggested ingredients to achieve the flavored layers. It’s a more manageable approach for the home cook. The ice creams should be softened enough to mix in a mixer, but not melted. We purchased the pistachio paste, morello cherry puree and amarena cherries online. Some specialty stores are apt to have the amarena cherries as well.
1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
1 pint chocolate ice cream, softened
¼ cup pure pistachio paste
1/3 cup crushed salted pistachios
½ cup morello cherry puree
¼ cup drained and roughly chopped amarena cherries
1 Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with 2 pieces of plastic wrap, one across the length and one across the width, leaving enough for overhangs on all sides.
2 Add 2 cups of the vanilla ice cream to the bowl of an electric mixer. With the paddle attachment, beat in the pistachio paste until mixture is smooth and thoroughly combined. Mix in the crushed pistachios. Spread the pistachio ice cream in the bottom of the loaf pan; smooth the top into an even layer with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. Freeze until layer is set, about 15 minutes. (You want it firm enough to spread the next layer on top without the two mixing together.)
3 Put the remaining 2 cups vanilla ice cream in the mixer bowl; beat in the cherry puree until smooth and thoroughly combined. Mix in the chopped cherries. Carefully spread the cherry layer on top of the pistachio layer; smooth the top with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. Freeze until set, about 15 minutes.
4 Blend the chocolate ice cream in the mixer until smooth. Carefully spread on top of the cherry layer; smooth the top with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. Return pan to the freezer; freeze, 1 hour. Remove pan from freezer; completely wrap with the overhanging plastic wrap. Freeze, 2 hours or overnight. Can be made up to 2 days ahead.
5 When ready to serve, unmold onto a platter; remove the plastic wrap. Serve in slices, with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
Nutrition information per slice: 339 calories, 16 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 87 mg cholesterol, 41 g carbohydrates, 38 g sugar, 7 g protein, 78 mg sodium, 1 g fiber