Bar La Torre: The Best Sicilian Granita in Calabria

The weekend of September 13 was seared on my brain and red-checked on my calendar as the day of the annual Festival del Peperoncino in somewhat-nearby Diamante. Plans were made, friends were here and the car was gassed and rearing to go. We left mid-morning and planned to arrive just in time for a late lunch of pepper shrimp, pepper liquor, pepper chocolate, pepper jelly … you get the idea.

Sadly all we got was the idea, as well. It seems unbeknownst to us and undocumented in any of the festival literature, this baby didn’t get underway until verso 8:00 at night. It was 2:00.

Instead of reversing our 136 kilometer trek on a wretchedly empty stomach we headed to the nearby medieval town of Scalea, home to mysterious grottos, secret Byzantine Mosaics and the best granita this side of Sicily.

We stopped by the Antico Casa del Gelato Bar La Torre, 10-time Calabrian gelato champs and international importer of Sicilian granita artigianale where we were happily greeted by the owner, Eugenio “Gino” Prospato.

Gino offered up spoon-sized samples of almond, cedro and lemon granita that glistened as the September sunlight peeked through the windows. He handed over the house favorite – fico d’india – then rushed off to prepare a fresh batch of pineapple.

And Gino has had plenty of practice whipping up granita. He began making this Sicilian specialty when he was NINE years old, peddling his cart throughout the hills of Santa Dominca and Praia a Mare, Calabria.

Sixty-one years later his legendary granita has a stable home and a wealth of followers. The walls are lined with medals, newspaper clippings and photos of the awards Gino has collected throughout the years.

“We can’t keep up,” his wife, Michela told us. “Every day we receive invitations to participate in another competition.”

Opening her mail in front of us she said, “This came in this morning – a competition in Bari.

Ha,” she shrugged. “Maybe we can make it.”

As if creating award-winning granita, owning a town landmark and being a widely-respected member of the community weren’t enough, Bar La Torre recently began hosting the Festival della Granita. Each year on July 1, Bar La Torre opens it doors and offers up the best tasting granita this side of Sicily.

In addition to fico d’india and pineapple, Gino and his crew whip up melon, almond, lemon, strawberry, wild fruit, cedro and coffee granita. And the catch?

It’s all free.

Last year Bar La Torre dished out over 700 kilos of freshly made granita. When I asked why they do it, Michela smiled and said, “Because he loves it. Sixty-one years … he loves it!”

If you find yourself floating along the Tyrrhenian coast next summer and needing an ultra-light, fat-free pick-up – you know where to go.

 Bar La Torre

Viale Kennedy, 9-11

Scalea (CS) Italy

(39) 0985.920450


Maybe I will see you there!

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Comments

  1. All free! They do that here with ciambelle, pasta fagiolo and wine for some festas. I wonder how much they spend in total?
     
    Yea, they do that in some of the villages here, too but I think it is usually more than one place that “hosts” it. I am not sure, though. Very generous of them, eh?

  2. Mmmm, looks refreshing on a hot Italian summer day 🙂 Love the awning!! Did you by chance visit any grotto’s? There is just something mysterious about them.
     
    I haven’t visited the grottos yet. I will have to do that next time… maybe next summer when I am there for the festival!

  3. That was a wonderful review. :)I am currently working on figuring out the story behind ITalian Ices in NYC — I am assuming that it’s some sort of poor man’s version of gelato, but not sure if it is based on granita.
     
    Let me know if you figure it out. I think they are the same thing, but I am not 100% sure, either.

  4. I love Granita…and I have had some of the best in Sicily but then I am going to be in Calabria before Sicily so I think I will have to try this little place out!
     
    Awesome. I hope you get there before they stop making it for the summer! I haven’t had it in Sicily. The only time I went there was February and they only make this in the summers!

  5. I’m familiar with gelato. We have a place nearby that makes gelato as good as any I’ve had in Italy, but I’m not familiar with “granita”. Is that just another name for gelato or something different?
     
    It isn’t gelato, it is made with just water, sugar and fruit. I *think* it is what we would call “Italian Ice” in the states. But don’t quote me on that! 🙂

  6. I soo have to bookmark that!! my husband will be all over it- one year from now!!!:-)
     
    Yea! I hope you guys can go. It will be so fun.

  7. Sounds lovely! I doubt I’ll get there anytime soon but it seems like a good place to head for during a summer trip to Italy. Very nice story, thanks for posting. Great to hear about someone so happy in his chosen life.
     
    I seriously plan to go next July 1. I can taste it now … YUM!

  8. Well, Bar La Torre is definitly getting added to our itinerary……and we’ll be there for 3 days…..enough time to sample lots of flavors.Yum!
     
    Wonderful! Tell them “we” sent you. 🙂

  9. Any suggestions on where to rent an apartment in that area? I would not travel Alitalia as it is expensive. I got a ticket last year on Iberia for $493 from Boston to Rome with a stop in Madrid!

    True, Alitalia is often one of the most expensive airlines for me when I travel to Houston.

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