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Brocato’s gains national recognition as James Beard semifinalist

A quiet, delicious Wednesday night inside Angelo Brocato’s, 214 N. Carrollton Ave. (Mid-City Messenger file photo)

By Jeanne D’Arcy, Mid-City Messenger

Most everyone in New Orleans knows the Angelo Brocato gelato parlor and  pastry shop on Carrollton Avenue in Mid-City. Now it is on the national radar. 

The century-old family business was recently announced as a semifinalist for a 2023 James Beard award in a new category: bakeries. The announcement came as a surprise — especially to owner Arthur Brocato.

“It came out of the blue,” he said. “I got a call from Poppy Tooker congratulating me on the award, and I had no idea what she was talking about.”

Brocato’s, where you can expect lines out the door on summer evenings, is best known for its gelato. It also includes a substantial bakery that turns out traditional Sicilian-style pastries. 

Brocato did not know the James Beard Foundation, which annually awards what are considered the Oscars of the food world, has started to recognize outstanding bakeries. Its definition is broad enough that Brocato’s gelato, as well as its pastries, may be considered. 

“New in 2023, this category recognizes a baker of breads, pastries or desserts that demonstrates consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality and operations while contributing positively to its broader community,” the foundation states in its Jan. 25 press release announcing the semifinalists.

“Right now all I know what is on the James Beard website, it lists us along with 19 other bakeries as semifinalists,” Brocato said.

The James Beard awards are the highest honors in the U.S. food industry. The finalists will be announced March 29, and the winners on June 5.

“We are honored and humbled at the same time to be in such company,” Brocato said. “I didn’t ever dream that Brocato’s would be considered for this. Even to be nominated is an honor.” 

A picture from 1920 of French Quarter store with sawdust-covered floors. From left to right are Angelo Sr., Angelo Jr., Joseph and Rosario Brocato. (Courtesy of Angelo Brocato Ice Cream Parlor)

The Brocato family has operated Angelo Brocato Original Italian Ice Cream Parlor since 1905, with a history steeped in Sicilian traditions. During the cold season, founder Angelo Brocato would turn his efforts to baking and candy making. 

Brocato’s first flavor of gelato was torroncino.

Especially notable were biscotti, torrone, marzipan and many other confections, such as their famed cannoli. The Sicilian techniques and recipes are still used today in the North Carrollton shop.

Successive generations have taken over Brocato’s. It was initially located in the French Quarter, then home to many Italian immigrants. After 80 years, as the population of the French Quarter shifted, the Brocato family moved the shop to its current location in Mid-City.

The new space allowed the business to expand and modernize, while retaining the carefully created old-world atmosphere of the French Quarter shop. 

The retail space was renovated in time to celebrate Brocato’s 100th anniversary in July 2005. Only two months later, the floods after Hurricane Katrina inundated their Mid-City neighborhood. Brocato’s took on more than 5 feet of water and was shuttered for 13 months.

When it finally reopened, the line wound around the block.

“We strongly believe that the techniques and principles held dear by our grandfather, Angelo Sr., have guided us to the highest levels of quality assurance and customer service,” the Brocato family states on the business’s website, “and that these pillars of our business will carry us into this century and beyond.” They have, at least, carried them to national recognition.

(Mid-City Messenger file photo)

Angelo Brocato Original Ice Cream Parlor
214 N. Carrollton Ave.
Facebook: @AngeloBrocatos 

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