Granita and grattachecca: are they the same thing?
Granita and grattachecca are two cold spoon desserts that have now become symbols of the Italian summer, although we still have a hard time distinguishing them. The two terms are in fact used as synonymous, though in reality they are completely different from each other. Today we clarify the difference between granita and grattachecca to appease Romans and Sicilians!
The Sicilian granita: history and origins
Yes, the real granita is Sicilian: more precisely, its origins date back to the time of Arab domination in Sicily, who introduced the Sherbet: an iced Arab drink flavored with rose water or fruit juices. The history of Sicilian granita, however, dates back to the Middle Ages and, precisely, to the Nivaroli. These were the men who collected snow from the Mount Etna every winter and stored it throughout the year in anticipation of the warmer months. When the summer temperatures arrived, this preserved snow was bought by noble families and used to make refreshing drinks. The ingredients? Grated snow and lemon juice, flower or fruit juice. This custom was handed down until the twentieth century, a period in which snow began to be used as a preservative and no longer as an ingredient: it was placed in a wooden vat containing a zinc bucket, in which a mixture of water, sugar and flavorings was poured. This mixture was constantly mixed and, thanks to the coolness of the snow in which it was immersed, it thickened without forming large ice crystals. And there you have it: the Sicilian granita! We can recognize it thanks to its fine, almost “flaky” consistency, dense and perfect to be enjoyed with a spoon.
The grattachecca: the Roman granita
The grattachecca is simply the granita from Rome, though its making differs greatly from the real Sicilian granita. The grattachecca is typicallly sold in the kiosks along the River Tiber, where it was born as street food in the early twentieth century. Since then it is still prepared in the same way: a single large block of ice is scraped through and syrup, or fresh fruit juice, is added to the crushed ice according to taste. The name derives from its mode of preparation: that is, from the verb “gratta” (scratch) and from “checca”, a term that in Roman jargon was used to identify a large block of ice, once used to refrigerate and preserve food.
Therefore, granita and grattachecca are clearly not the same thing: grattachecca is made up of ice and aromas; granita is sugar, water and fruit processed at a very low temperature to obtain a dense mixture. You just have to taste the granitas of the RivaReno ice cream parlors, made according to the original recipe and no added artificial flavors, syrups or artificial colourings!