Fun, Family, Refreshment & One Seriously Sweet Invention
December 1, 2022
Every summer in the USA brings with it the type of sweltering sunlight that demands cool-down breaks, best enjoyed with a smooth Carousel’s soft serve ice in hand. In our modern times, indoor AC is usually never too far away, but in the ancient age before climate control, the stifling summer heat pushed one legendary leader to explore an especially lofty means of cooling his courts, resulting in the birth of one America’s most treasured frozen desserts.
In 56 AD, a time when simply possessing ice was the height of luxury, Roman Emperor Nero was known to command fleet-footed countrymen to scale steep mountains and fetch snow from their tallest frozen peaks. Once located, the servants would wrap the snow in straw (to prevent melting), and sprint back to the temple, where it was promptly blended with honey and fruits and enjoyed as the world’s first Italian Ice.
Ice cream as we know it, perfected in the mid-16th century by Italian cooks and scientists, first arrived in North America via recipes carried by early British settlers. Samples soon spread throughout the colonies, making instant fans out of our Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, who was so enamored that he went on to study ice cream making in France, returning home with a crank-driven churn machine to stir up treats for his wife and children.
Though we do have less experience leading empires and founding nations than these confectioners, we at Carousel’s are proud to serve an equally innovative and satisfying frozen dessert. Our trademark treat combines the delicious tastes and textures of both Nero’s and Jefferson’s favorites to create a dairy-free yet super creamy brand of ice, crafted using a secret family recipe and one-of-a-kind production method honed over a 25-year period.
The swirled magic of Carousel’s ice as we know it today began with a simple birthday wish. In the Philadelphia area where the Curyto’s grew up, Italian Ice is a generational tradition, one that a young Corey knew and loved so well that one year, his sole birthday request was six gallons of the treat. He remembers, “I asked only for two entire tubs of cherry and lemon ice for my birthday and my Dad said ‘you know what, I bet I can make this stuff!’” Having issued himself the challenge, Curyto patriarch Tom, an aeronautical engineer by degree, began to read up on and experiment with Italian Ice recipes.
“In the early 1990s he gave it a try but it wasn’t very good,” Corey says. “As high school began, it became almost an ongoing joke amongst my friends—when they came over he would fill different cups with his recipe and Rita’s, the standard for Italian Ice, and do blind taste tests.” Over the next five years, Tom polished his from-scratch recipe again and again, until family friends began to develop a love for it and urged him to sell it at the Jersey shore. Though he shared their enthusiasm, Tom wasn’t satisfied using the traditional production method, and instead imagined a new production process that could stand to reinvent the Italian Ice.
Corey explains further, “it was still just regular Italian Ice, prepared in the standard way—a liquid mix poured into tubs, frozen, then scooped like ice cream. Dad pictured a smooth and creamy ice that would come out of a soft serve machine.” With this vision in mind, Tom met with a vendor who specialized in soft serve, shared his aspirations and was immediately told it would never work, an answer that only convinced him to pursue the project further.
“Dad graduated with an engineering degree and he always wanted to take on an ‘out-of-this-world’ sort of project,” says Corey, “so he started to customize and modify a soft serve machine, over and over, until one day to the great surprise of the distributors it worked!” Upon meeting again with the vendor who originally turned him down, Corey’s Dad was told his device and product were sure hits, and after similar praise from businessmen, he knew it was officially time to turn the key.
25 years later, what began as a laughing matter in the Curyto family kitchen has become a yet-to-be-matched dessert favorite that deliciously dispels the once industry-standard notion that Italian Ice can’t be smooth and creamy. At Carousel’s we still perform top-secret custom modifications on every individual soft serve machine we use, and always abide by our time-honored family recipe, celebrating Tom’s original vision of Italian Ice and soft serve machines working in unison.
Revolutionizing a nearly 2,000 year old treat while retaining the taste, tradition and joy of the original? That’s no small feat, and unlike Nero’s pals or Thomas Jefferson, Tom and Corey weren’t forced to scale frozen mountain tops or cross continents to realize their frozen dessert dreams. A birthday wish, a vision, a challenge and a supportive family were all that was needed.