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. (Desi spoke to Smithsonian on behalf of her husband, due to a language barrier.) “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…