He has a taste for green

Gus Rancatore, one of the founders of Toscanini’s Ice Cream in Cambridge, loves the taste of green tea “in almost anything. Green tea shakes are good.’’ Gus Rancatore, one of the founders of Toscanini’s Ice Cream in Cambridge, loves the taste of green tea “in almost anything. Green tea shakes are good.’’ (Michele Mcdonald for The Boston Globe)
By Sebastian Smee
Globe Staff / March 17, 2010

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Gus Rancatore isn’t Irish. At least I don’t think he is. But, with his sister Mimi, he runs Toscanini’s Ice Cream in Cambridge, and so we were not surprised to discover that he is a man for all occasions — including Saint Patrick’s Day.

Q. It’s Saint Patrick’s Day. I don’t suppose you make any Irish-related ice cream?

A. We make Baileys, which I think was invented by the Irish milk board. We make an ice cream variation on the Baileys and orange juice Dreamsicle. And we make Guinness, but not for “The Irish,’’ as they once were, who think this is an abomination. Guinness is sold all over the world. In Trinidad people make Guinness pies and Guinness ice cream. Guinness is sweet and has a distinctive molasses flavor to it. So we sell this flavor to people from the islands, and we sell it year round.

Q. Are you sure it works as an ice cream?

A. Yes, it works, as does wort, which we make with wort, the unfermented beginnings of beer, from Cambridge Brewing Co. Both flavors have grain-like tones that work well for restaurants when served with cakes and pies or tarts and tortes.

Q. I’m liking this theme! Let’s stick with it. What’s the greenest ice cream you make?

A. Green tea. I like green tea in almost anything. Green tea shakes are good. I had green tea waffles at a Vietnamese sandwich shop and they were good, as are the green tea Kit Kat bars eaten by Japanese students during exam season. We also make basil and fresh mint, which are pale in color.

Q. What’s better: green tea, pistachio, green apple, or mint ice cream?

A. Green apple sorbet is number one. Green tea is number two. Pistachio ice cream is usually not green, although the nuts may be tinged with green. Mint ice cream is pale green when made with fresh mint. Once a customer asked me why our mint flavors were not green. I said it wasn’t natural to have bright green or pink mint ice cream. He said if all the other ice cream stores made green ice cream, and we didn’t, then we were wrong. We remain wrong, in so many ways.

Q. Would you ever make broccoli ice cream? I reckon I could sell that to my kids.

A. Kevin Rafferty, our chef, said, “You can make ice cream out of anything, but that doesn’t mean you have to make it out of everything.’’ All of us think that broccoli is a bad idea for ice cream, even the people who love broccoli. We have made avocado ice cream, which is popular in Mexico and parts of the Pacific. It makes a wonderful creamy flavor, but Americans think of avocados as a vegetable and made so many stupid jokes that the servers begged us not to make it again. Some smart and clever chef like Heston Blumenthal in England will undoubtedly make broccoli. It will be delicious and it will never be popular.

Interview was condensed and edited.