Aunt Vincenzina, the "messa in piega" and the lemon sorbet

By September 21, 2014Blog, dolci - sweets, recipes

My zia (aunt) Vincenzina is nearly 93. She lives in Monfalcone and like those of her generation, she believes in la bella figura. There is a sense of pride and respect to others in making sure you look your best when you step outside the door of your apartment. La bella figura entailed weekly visits to the hairdresser and the messa in piega (having your hair “set”). What it meant for the women of Monfalcone is having your hair washed, dried, generally set in rollers and sprayed with lacquer. When you emerged from the parucchiere your hair seemed aerated, not only defying gravity, but able to withstand the perils of the local bora (strong northerly wind). It also meant you could happily go to the bakery, proudly display your messa in piega and have a gossip with your neighbour and check out her messa in piega. You might be wondering what all this has to do with lemon sorbet….


Whenever we would visit Monfalcone, the family would take us to Il Cavaliere, our favourite restaurant in Sistiana (Trieste). The ladies would turn up with their hair suitably set (i.e. with a messa in piega) and the meal would invariably finish with a delightful sorbetto al limone. My zia Vice (pronounced vee-chae) who was a bit of a teetotaller, was rather partial to the sorbetto. We were never sure whether she knew that it was laden with vodka. She would start giggling and laughing, messa in piega still intact, and we would all start laughing with her. (Photos above are of Zia Clara and niece Claire [without the messa in piega]; cousin Edda and in the lower right, zia Vice)

Last time I was in Monfalcone my sister begged me to ask the owner of Il Cavaliere, Antonio, the recipe for zia Vice’s favourite sorbetto. He told me it was very simple – water based lemon gelato mixed at the last minute with Prosecco and vodka, served in a chilled tall glass. The recipe sounded rather like a sgroppino (literally an “un-knotter”), which is a typical Venetian drink to have after your meal, like a palate cleanser. I recently purchased a Cuisinart Gelateria and I am *slightly obsessed* with it (see my post from a few days ago with a recipe for gelato allo zabaglione). I had yet to make a sorbet with my Gelateria so I made lemon sorbetto from scratch using home grown lemons from mamma’s trees. Hence the sgroppino in the photos looks yellower than the white one made by Antonio (photo above) but you could easily make the recipe below using a good quality lemon gelato to make it white. I served the sgroppino with some slices of candied lemon – it was so refreshing! It will be a great summer drink/dessert and I will think of my aunt Vice every time I make it.


A reminder for all readers living in Victoria: on Sunday 19 October I am running a cooking class at Prospect Cottage in Chewton. We will be making a 4-course italian seasonal lunch to share. I would love you to join me – it will be such fun and in such a beautiful location. There are still a few places available – details are here.

Lemon vodka sorbet (sgroppino)

500 ml (2 cups) lemon sorbet or lemon gelato
100ml (1/2 cup) Prosecco, chilled
2 tablespoons Vodka, chilled (you can leave this out if you like)

Make sure your tall serving glasses (eg. champagne flutes) are well chilled. Place the ingredients in a blender and whizz for about a minute until well combined. Pour into the glasses and garnish with lemon zest, candied lemon or mint leaves and serve immediately on a plate with a long spoon.


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