It was a hot and sultry afternoon. I sat outdoors at Gelato Di Riso with my friend, Laura, enjoying a quickly melting ice cream cone. We were on The Hill just steps down the street from St. Ambrose Church. The historic centerpiece of the Italian community has a unique statue on its corner. It’s not a saint, as you might expect, it’s a couple with a baby and a suitcase.
Having just gotten off the boat, with all their earthly possessions in hand, the figures on the statue look uncertain, but hopeful, as they begin life on a new shore. The statue entitled, “The Italian Immigrants” is a powerful reminder of those who settled the area many decades ago.
“Send Me Your Poor”—and Don’t Forget the Recipes!
Today the vibrant and thriving Hill area is a tribute to the hard work and family values of these early immigrants, whose descendants continue their contribution to the Greater St. Louis area. Fortunately, they brought along their food culture and with it the makings for fine pastas, sauces and pastries that are still enjoyed today.
Gelato Comes to America
Gelato is one such delicacy. Among the very oldest of sweet treats, gelato was originally made from snow brought down from mountain peaks by runners. A 16th century Sicilian is considered the first to sell the icy combo of fruits, juices and milk. An Italian physician in the 1800s wrote that the mixture was good for both mind and body. (You don’t find doctors like that nowaday.) Even so, gelato is revered enough to have its own museum located on the outskirts of Bologna, Italy.
On The Hill, Gelato Di Riso carries on the long and delicious tradition. Here’s a list of their milk-based and fruit-based flavors.
“We are a nation of immigrants, who have made America great. We continue to be enriched by the gifts they bring to our shores.” ~Ronald Reagan
Gelato di Riso. 5204 Wilson Avenue on The Hill. Open: Daily from 8a-9p. Closed during January and February.