Residents of the Austrian capital have lined up for more than 130 years to sample Italian ice cream from the Molin-Pradel family, one of the oldest ice cream dynasties in Vienna.
“He helped democratize ice cream, which was previously reserved for the rich,” says Silvio Molin-Pradel of his great-great-grandfather Arcangelo, who began selling it in carts in Vienna in 1886.
More than a century later, the consumption of ice cream among Austrians is higher than in neighboring Italy.
And it was entrepreneurs like Arcangelo Molin-Pradel, born into poverty in the Dolomite Alps of northern Italy, who were among the first to take advantage of the Viennese sweet tooth.
The high cost of sugar, milk, and refrigeration – years before the invention of electric freezing – meant that ice cream had long been the preserve of aristocrats.
But ingenious Italians like the Molin-Pradels changed that by producing ice cream made from water and fruit extracts.
– Ice cream migration –
Originally from Zoldo, six hours by car from Vienna today, the Molin-Pradels, like other families, were so poor that migrating for seasonal work was part of life – whether to work as sailors, loggers. or glaciers.
Vienna has become one of the first glacier destinations outside Italy, explains Maren Moehring, professor of history at the University of Leipzig in Germany.
The “frozen stuff” of Italian migrants, as some called it, quickly became popular with ordinary Viennese.
# photo1 This angered Austrian bakers, who saw them as “dangerous competition”, according to Moehring.
In 1894, ice cream parlors were granted the right to open stores in Vienna rather than simply selling ice cream on carts.
“The Viennese were already used to sweets … so it was not difficult to serve this cold product afterwards”, tells AFP Molin-Pradel, who keeps his recipes a secret, standing at the back of his living room at Schwedenplatz.
In the central tree-lined square in the heart of Vienna, the family still produces homemade ice cream.
Every day in summer, around 5,000 customers order from dozens of flavors, ranging from traditional flavors like chocolate and vanilla to avocado, lavender and hemp.
“All Viennese will tell you that ‘their’ Italian ice cream maker is better,” says Molin-Pradel.
“The colors should be pastel. It’s a guarantee of quality, ”he says, adding that the company has grown, selling its ice creams in particular in some Viennese supermarkets.
– Tradition durable –
Of around 370 ice cream shops in Austria, around 40 are still run by Italians in the small Alpine nation of nearly nine million people, according to the Austrian Economic Chamber.
# photo2 Its data also shows that Austria has an average per capita consumption of over 60 scoops per year, or around eight liters of ice cream, or more than in Italy, with an average consumption of six liters.
From one generation to the next, the skills and knowledge of glaciers have been passed on, “which is why they are so successful,” says Moehring.
While the glaciers of old usually returned to Italy to tend the crops in the Alps in mid-August, today the season lasts until October.
Even today, Pradel-Molin makes a pilgrimage to his ancestral home in Zoldo at the end of each season.
It’s always his inspiration to keep up to date with the latest flavors and other industry secrets, he says.
© 2021 AFP