For those of you who don’t know, Spumoni is a molded Italian ice cream made with layers of different colors and flavors, usually containing candied fruits and nuts. I’ve heard of spumoni before, had a relative idea of what it looked like, but have never actually tried it, nor have I really had a great desire to try it. It seems kind of dated – something you’d find at a banquet hall in the eighties after a big spaghetti dinner. Back then, you’d be excited because it was three flavors of ice cream all served at once, but in the age of Ben & Jerry’s, that three-flavor combo just doesn’t have the same allure.
The problem would be finding spumoni. Our googling showed no real results of places in Rhode Island famous for spumoni (it really only showed a restaurant in Pawtucket called Spumoni’s which we didn’t feel like trekking to). Our chief consultant Kate told us that you can sometimes find it in a grocery store – Hood, Friendly’s and Edie’s all offer their version at certain times of the year, usually during the holidays (Christmas, not National Spumoni Day). But rather than having a tub of ice cream, we wanted to go find an authentic spumoni at a restaurant and in this area, if you want to find some authentic Italian food, you go right to the source . . . Olive Garden. Just kidding, we went to Federal Hill in Providence.
It had been a beautiful day which, after mowing the lawn and taking care of a few chores, we spent relaxing with time on the hammock, in the water and in our lawn chairs reading and soaking in the sun (remember folks – we only have a few more days of summer left – enjoy them!). When 5 pm rolled around, we showered up and headed out with hopes in our hearts about finding the elusive spumoni. For those not familiar, Federal Hill is a section of Providence famous for it’s eateries, especially Italian ones. We parked on Atwells Avenue and began a slow stroll down Federal Hill looking at the menu at every restaurant trying to find our dessert. We were hungry too, so getting some food first became a priority. With no spumoni in site, we stopped at a place called Costantino’s Venda Bar & Ristorante for a quick appetizer and cocktail.
The restaurant was right on the corner of a big open plaza with a fountain at the center. The restaurants surrounding the plaza all had outside tables and it was abuzz with activity. There was also a band playing, Strictly Sinatra, which really sounded like Ol’ Blue Eyes himself and added a layer of fun and authenticity to the night. Sipping wine with Lola, feasting on some Tagliatte Di Salumi, the air filled with happy chatter and the songs of Sinatra as the background made for a pretty special moment. It transformed you to another place, another time, but still let you revel in the joy of summer. A little magic on a Sunday night. But alas, still no spumoni.
After our feast, we continued our search and walked up and down Atwells Ave looking for our dessert like two spumoni junkies in need of a fix. We would ask every host and hostess we came upon if they served spumoni and most did not even know what we were talking about. We had caught rumor that one restaurant had it on their dessert menu, so we made our way there – almost at the end of our journey. The restaurant was called Cassation’s and it was right next door to the place we had celebrated National Watermelon Day.
Us: Do you guys have Spumoni?
Hostess: I don’t think so. Is that a kind of pasta?
Us: No, it’s a dessert.
Hostess: No, sorry.
(We turn to leave with despair in our hearts)
Hostess: Oh wait, we do! [points to dessert menu]
There it was: Spumoni Tartufo – Strawberry, chocolate and pistachio ice cream with a hazelnut and cherry center covered in a chocolate shell.
She sat us at a table outside and we ordered some up right away along with some cappuccino. In truth, the spumoni wasn’t great. It’s really just three lame flavors of ice cream. The chocolate shell was pretty much Magic Shell, the hazelnut was not very plentiful and the cherry center was just maraschino cherries molded into the ice cream (does anyone over the age of ten really like maraschino cherries?). But it was spumoni and it was just as unremarkable as I imagined it would be.
But we found it, and we celebrated it. And in that search, I had a pretty special night with a beautiful woman in a place that transported us to other worlds. All in all, a pretty great National Spumoni Day.
Next Up: National Eat a Peach Day