In a history book talking about cold drinks – which have been around since ancient times – the Grattachecca is a very Roman treat that would an entire chapter to itself.  Let’s start with its name, which evolved from the action of “grating” a huge block of ice – called a “checca” in Roman dialect – with a specially designed tool that produced ice shavings known as “ghiacciata” that looked a lot like snow.  Freshly squeezed fruit juice or syrups were poured over this “snow”, and sometimes pieces of fresh or dried fruit were added too.  This Roman invention, a tradition that dates back to the end of the 19th century, quickly became a popular “street food”.  It is still much sought after today   and you may be surprised to hear that it is still prepared by hand and served in the historic kiosks that are an essential feature of Roman summers.  A grattachecca is completely different to a granita, and the two should never be confused!  In the first, fruit juice or syrup is poured over freshly grated “snow “and this enhances the taste sensation when the two separate elements combine for the first time inside the mouth.  In a granita, on the other hand, water, juice and sugar are mixed together, frozen and only later crushed or chopped up and this means that every single ice crystal is flavoured.   It is easy to make a grattachecca at home, following a very simple recipe, although care must be taken if you want to recreate its traditional flavour and texture.

A recipe for “grattachecca” with seasonal fruit.
Ingredients:
•    Ice
•    Fruit juice or syrup
•    Sugar
•    Fruit

Method:  It is a good idea to take the ice you are going to use out of the freezer and leave it at room temperature for a few minutes before you actually start.  When it is no longer rock hard, coarsely grate the ice either using an old fashioned hand-cranked grater or a modern, electric equivalent.  Once the ice has been finely grated, spoon it into large glasses and pour over some fruit syrup or freshly prepared fruit juice such as lemon, sour black cherry, tamarind, coconut or whatever else you like best.  Adding some fresh seasonal or dried fruit is optional.  IMPORTANT! A grattachecca must be eaten quickly because as it melts it loses its flavour and texture.

Historic Kiosks in Rome still selling “Grattachecca”

  • FONTE D’ORO, Piazza G. Belli
  •  CHIOSCO TESTACCIO, Via G. Branca
  •  SORA MIRELLA, Lungotevere degli Anguillara (on the corner of Ponte Cestio)
  •  ARA PACIS, Lungotevere in Augusta (corner of Ponte Cavour)
  •  SORA MARIA, Via Trionfale (corner of Via Telesio)
  • BUENOS AIRES, Piazza Buenos Aires
  • PONTE MOLLO, Largo Maresciallo Diaz (Piazza Ponte Milvio)
  • SMAX, Viale Giulio Cesare 140 (corner of Leone IV)
  • TAZZA D’ORO, Via degli Orfani 84
  • FISCHIO, Piazzale degli Eroi, Roma