I recently returned from an extended trip to Italy to celebrate the beginning of a new decade of life, and I can report that—even more than pasta and pizza—Italians love sweets. Eating gelato multiple times a day is a cultural norm.
In Sicily, we never let an afternoon go by without snacking on a canolo alongside an espresso. On weekend mornings, piazza tables in Catania are dotted with huge bowls of colorful granita, an icy, gelato-like confection that Sicilians have for breakfast if the weather is warm—and it’s always warm.
Our sweet tooth did not abate when we returned to Santa Cruz, so we’ve been spending afternoons at the Penny Ice Creamery on Cedar Street. While sampling their daily lineup of seasonal, locally sourced flavors, I remembered that the Penny has an advantage over Italy, and that is toasted marshmallow fluff.
For years, I was too distracted by the novelty of the hand-churned ice creams to take much interest in the Penny’s list of toppings. This was a mistake. It wasn’t until a fateful evening out with a handsome Santa Cruz native who ordered some for my cone that I tried it for the first time. Reader, I am marrying that man.
If you’ve never had it before, here’s what you can expect. After choosing your flavor of ice cream (they won’t bat an eye if you sample all nine flavors first), the server will spoon the crisp white meringue topping over your cone. Then, they’ll whip out a blow torch and dramatically toast the top to golden campfire perfection. As you bite in, the contrast of soft, warm fluff giving way to cold ice cream is the most delightful juxtaposition.
Does adding more dessert to your dessert feel a little indulgent? Yes. Do we all deserve a decadent treat occasionally? Also yes. And if I learned anything from my time in Italy, it’s that eating ice cream is an integral part of living la dolce vita—the sweet life.