Grattachecca ! The cult of the Roman summer to never be confused with granita!
The story of a typical street food and Roman summer gastronomy and the substantial differences with the cousin granita
Living or visiting Rome in summer one of the many checks to be sure is undoubtedly the tasting of the famous Grattachecca
It is a moment of refreshment not to be missed.
In this end of August in Rome, as in all the days of summer heat, an excellent thirst-quenching and refreshing method to combat the suffocating heat is certainly the traditional Capitoline panacea
Grattachecca is a walking cake based on ice and flavors, typical of the city of Rome where it was born for the first time and where the most famous kiosks of Grattacheccari are located.
It is simply snow-grated ice with a metal scraper equipped with an empty rear chamber that allows the accumulated grated ice to be accumulated.
The contents of the chamber are generally sufficient to fill a large glass and then season it with various syrups and fresh seasonal fruit.
History of the Grattachecca
The name Gratta-checca derives from the action that is carried out to prepare it; practically scratching a “fag”, a term with which once identified the large block of ice used to refrigerate food when there were no refrigerators yet.
Food that was once widespread throughout the peninsula, the correct name in Italian is “iced”, is sometimes called improperly grenadine, in Naples it is called “rattata” or “cazzimbocchio”, in Palermo “grattatella”, in Bari “grattamarianna” , while in Calabria it is the “scirubetta”.
Its origin is actually to be found in the cold Abruzzo mountains.
In ancient times in many villages of Abruzzo the profession of the “snowman” was common, that is, he who went to the top of the frozen mountain on foot, cutting a block of ice and bringing it back to the valley on the back of a donkey, loaded it onto a wagon covered by a high layer of insulating straw and took it to the large nearby cities where it was resold to store food and for the preparation of ice cream and sorbets.
The economy of some Abruzzo countries under the Sirente glacier was supported precisely by this strenuous, fruitful activity. Over time, some “snowmen” who came to Rome started selling this product in the capital, which had immediate success.
The Grattachecca as we know it today appeared in Rome at the beginning of the twentieth century, as “street” food, with the first kiosks built in the Trastevere neighborhoods (which still serve grattachecche made as it once was) and became for the time the cheaper “proletarian” version of the walking dessert, as opposed to expensive ice cream, intended for a clientele made up of small and upper middle class.
Difference between Grattachecca and Granita
For the Romans it is a true summer ritual, strolling along the Lungotevere with an ice-cold glass.
So never call Granita a Grattachecca, especially in front of a Roman! He would not accept it, proud and proud as it is of the autochthonous product and the reason is simple; there is a big difference: granita, a typical dessert of Sicilian cuisine, unlike Grattachecca is a semi-frozen liquid compound, which is prepared with water, sugar, fruit juice or other.
She is also often confused with the sorbet, from which it differs in its grainy consistency.
Unlike the Grattachecca, the ice cream and the sorbet, the air in the final product of the granita is completely absent.
In the preparation it is important that the freezing takes place step by step, keeping the mixture moving, so that the water does not separate in the form of ice crystals.
They are therefore made with machines that take water mixed with syrups and freeze it by mixing continuously and preventing water from forming a blockage.
The difference is therefore that the granita must be prepared first and with the help of professional machines while the Grattachecca is instantaneous, only crushed ice with the addition of juice.
So no confusion.
In Rome today there are many Grattachecche kiosks, almost one for each neighborhood, some open all year, others only during the hot season.
But be careful, only a few of these now prepare the Grattachecca once again, with ice grated from a single block and not with crushed ice cubes.
You are not wrong going to Trastevere from “Sora Mirella”, the true institution of the Roman nightlife, or the oldest “kiosk” at the Fonte d’oro “, has quenched the Romans and tourists since 1913.
While in Testaccio there is the king of the renowned “Lemoncocco”, the Grattachecca topped with real lemon and coconut, “Il Chiosco di Testaccio”, in Prati there is “Sorsi e Morsi” where you can taste the “Melena”, a mix of green apple, lemon and cinnamon syrups, and then “Er chioschetto” on the Tuscan Appian Way, not very touristy, abundant and cheap Grattachecche.
Do not miss many other flavors such as “lemonkiwi” with syrup and pieces of kiwi, or “liquiriziella” with syrup and licorice straw
From tradition to modern times: the recipe for Grattachecca
Absolutely to try at home, everyone can make this tasty and refreshing recipe.
The basic recipe for Grattachecca is very simple: crushed ice and sugar to which fruit and mint or black cherry or mango syrup, tamarind, barley, coconut, lemon etc etc are added at will, according to your taste.
The ideal to have a compound of the right consistency is to use an artisan tool to crush the ice, the “ice planer” or “ice scraper”, a tool easily available on the market and always used by scratchers.
But the biggest problem is finding a sheet of ice so large that it can be scraped.
Therefore in the absence of this, a satisfactory result can also be obtained by chopping the cubed one (more reproducible at home) in an electric ice crusher and the chills are still ensured with a home-style, modern and technological version of the Scratchy.
Just one precaution is to let the ice warm up a little after removing it from the freezer and then not crushing it too finely; in fact the real grattachecca is obtained by scraping the ice at just under 0 ° while the freezer ice has a temperature of around -18 °.
The Grattachecca is certainly a leisure, it is a decidedly economic and ecological pleasure.
Many years ago it was used to season it only with the most varied flavored syrups, today the use of fresh fruit is very curious!