Perched by a cafe table with a cappuccino and a scoop of gelato, with weathered black-and-white portraits of mustached men looking down from the walls, I was in Italy. At least in my mind. My actual location was New Orleans, at the same off-the-beaten shop I visit whenever I'm in that town: Brocato's.
Creoles and Cajuns get much of the attention, deservedly, when people talk about the culinary traditions of New Orleans. But no one should ever forget the Italians, particularly the Sicilians. Boatloads, literally, landed in New Orleans at the turn of the last century. Among them was Angelo Brocato, a young man who had worked in a Palermo ice cream parlor and came to New Orleans with the plan to own his own. He worked a sugar plantation to save the necessary cash, and opened his own place in 1905 in the French Quarter. The shop has since moved, but I'd venture a guess that little else has changed, especially the recipes for pastries, cookies and that unbelievably creamy gelato.
It's at 214 N. Carrollton Ave., on the Carrollton spur of the Canal streetcar line.