When Dario Fontanella dreamed up a wacky dessert imposter for his children in the 1960s, the Italian German ice cream maker couldn’t have foreseen that his concoction would one day delight millions of people, young and old. Spaghetti ice cream, or spaghettieis, as it came to be called, gives the appearance of a bowl of spaghetti through methods that he invented to shape ice cream into thin strings. What looks like marinara and parmesan cheese is actually a fruit sauce and grated white chocolate. “In the early days of the spaghettieis, children often started to cry when he served them,” says Desi Fontanella, Dario’s wife. “Since they ordered a sundae, they were rather disappointed about getting served a pasta dish.”
Now, decades later, some 30 million cups of spaghettieis are sold in Germany each year. The popular dessert has become a staple in ice cream shops the country over.
Dario, 71, owner of Eis Fontanella, an ice cream shop in Mannheim, Germany, comes from a long line of ice cream masters. His grandfather opened a gelato shop near Venice in 1906, and his father established an Italian gelateria in Mannheim in 1933. Dario joined his father’s business in 1970, and by 1985, he was at the helm. Today, Eis Fontanella is at the forefront of ice cream innovation, as spaghettieis continues to grow in popularity throughout Germany under Dario’s lead.
Dario Fontanella had invented spaghettieis before his official entry into the family business. The idea first came to him in 1969, while on a skiing trip to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. There, he ordered a dessert called a Mont Blanc. Traditionally, the dish features chestnut puree piped onto a vanilla parfait using a pastry bag, giving the paste a stringy appearance. This particular restaurant, however, used a stainless steel spätzle maker, instead of a pastry bag, to give the chestnut mix a unique spaghetti-like appearance. Inspired, Dario experimented with this method to create an ice cream treat. In his first go, he arranged dyed batches of spaghettieis into an Italian flag. According to Desi, Dario’s father was appalled by the strange-colored pasta. Ever since, Dario has taken a more realistic approach.
When Dario unveiled the new ice cream creation at Eis Fontanella in the 1970s, it catapulted business. Today, operations have expanded to include multiple shops selling spaghettieis, cakes, pastries, coffee and more than 200 flavors of ice cream, in addition to ice cream trucks and a factory for packaging sweet treats. In 2014, the city of Mannheim recognized Dario for his creativity and innovation, endowing him with the Bloomaulorden, an award created in 1970 that is given to citizens who exude the spirit of the city. (Excerpt from 'How Germany’s Spaghetti Ice Cream Came to Be’, smithsonianmag.com, 2023)
What is the main feature of spaghettieis that makes it look like real spaghetti?