He clutched these papers as if they were simple pages from a forest of ink, containing numbers, dosages and recipes for cakes and ice cream flavours, not knowing that those words, which came from so far away, today are regarded as real historical finds.
From Vincenzo Paparella‘s desk, Marketing Manager at Mokambo Gelateria.
This is not the story of an ordinary artisan ice-cream parlour.
This is the story of a family, whose tradition and pastry arts come from very far away. It is a journey through time that takes us back to the date of 1840.
It all began from him: Luigi Marseglia (the man portrayed in the picture below). He was the uncle of the grandfather of the Paparella’s dynasty, pastry chef of the renowned Café Gambrinus in Naples, which precisely in that magic places, he learned the “white art” of making artisan gelato and desserts, which were highly in vogue in the most prestigious courts in Europe at the time.
Naples was not far behind, since from that famous Café Gabrinius stood and still stands the Royal Palace just a few steps away.
And, it is in fact from the walls of that magnificent Royal Palace that the best pastry chefs of that time derive from, they were greatly experienced people with even greater abilities at serving King Ferdinand II of Bourbon.
What happened to Luigi Marseglia at that time, today it would be considered a unique opportunity.
Whilst working in the café, the young Luigi followed the footsteps of his master, Pascale Scognamillo, the firstborn son of the King Ferdinand II of Bourbon’s pastry chef master, from which he learned the recipes and the confectionery art. Exactly in that Café, whilst churning out and preparing sweets for years, is where Luigi became the head pastry chef.
Hence, a common thread connects Luigi Marseglia’s life with the sweets’ recipes favoured by the King Ferdinand II of Bourbon, who was nicknamed Bomba, not only because he bombed Messina (in Sicily) but also for his passion for desserts.
Actually It was the king himself, who was in love with that cream perfumed with vanilla and refined spices. In 1840, he awarded his confectioner for making memorable what was then defined as Cremolada and, from that moment on became the “Crema del Re”. (otherwise called “King’s Cream” in English)
Sweet, silky, fragrant and unforgettable: Luigi was lucky to get to know this delicacy and become its heir.
Today the “Crema del Re” (King’s Cream) is the flagship flavour of the artisan Mokambo Gelateria
When Luigi moved to Ruvo, to follow his heart and marry a local, he decided to open his own personal café in that small borough in Puglia, naming it with the same place in honour of the working place where he grew up: The Caffè Gambrinus of Ruvo di Puglia with billiard room attached to it.
However, this was not his only business. Luigi also opened the Trattoria Marseglia located in Via Alcide de Gasperi (opposite the Cascione bakery), the Hotel Marseglia situated in Regina Margherita Square, and a Shell petrol station (the very first ever opened in town and the only one serving the Municipalities of Ruvo di Puglia, Corato and Terlizzi – in 1912) located at the corner of Corso Domenico Cotugno.
However, all these businesses needed heirs; Luigi had no kids, and for this reason, Luigi decided to pass on his expertise and knowledge to his grandson “little” Vincenzo Paparella, our dear grandfather.
Vincenzo grew up quickly. At only 5 years old, he began working as a stable boy in his uncle’s artisan ice-cream parlour, learning the art of baking and “by stealing” with his eyes the trade tricks. He worked there for the next 13 years up till 1951, the year when he turned 18 years old and had to leave for military service.
During the years away from home, he became a tank driver and was appointed to fight at the border with Dalmatia, to fight for the battle of
Trieste’s liberation, which then took place on the 26th of October in 1954. His special role as a tank driver extended his enlistment and duty until February 1956.
With the cold war and the liberation of Trieste, Vincenzo was dismissed from his role and went back to Ruvo di Puglia in the last few cold days of February 1956.
However, upon his return, he found out that Uncle Luigi had recently sold Caffè Gambrinus and therefore could no longer work in the family business and he went to work at Caffé Italia until January 1967.
Working in the café meant his life. Serving and arranging small receptions like those that took place back in that time, at home, in the mid-1960s, was his calling.
So it was that with the help of his brothers-in-law Lucia Ippedico and Rocco Fracchiolla and Uncle Luigi’s recommendation, who vouched for him with Mrs Maria Pierro in De Marco, owner of the premises in Corso Carafa number 56 and 58. And, at 34 years old, Vincenzo opened his own Bar Mokambo. It was the 7th of November in 1967.
At that time, Vincenzo didn’t think that those recipes for sweets and gelato flavours, which were handed down by his uncle and dated back to the Bourbons, would be valuable historical finds: For him, the “Crema del Re” (King’s Cream) was “The Uncle Luigi’s gelato” – or as our grandmother Lena loved to remember it in the local dialect as “u Gg-lot d Zì Giggin”.
During these years, the Mokambo Bar offered multiple different services: on one side there were pastries, on the other side artisan gelato and in the middle, it had a café offering events planning services. Shortly afterwards the other business activities of the Mokambo family were born, including the Aurora Hall, the Veranda Hall and the M.K. Hall, as well as home dining service, known as catering service nowadays, which even reached the farther areas of Foggia and Lucania.
«What you call catering today, we used to do it right here, in the big kitchen of what used to be the Marseglia Hotel» Uncle Franco reminded us a few days ago while we were chatting about family tales.
For over 30 years, particularly between the ’60s and the early ’80s, the Mokambo family was at the centre of Ruvo’s life, a reference point for celebrations like wedding occasions, baptisms, receptions and parties.
«Today, we still receive photographs and small menù agreements from some clients, whose parents or grandparents celebrated wedding ceremonies or arranged receptions at what used to be our venues» Giuliana tells.
The story continues and goes on. In the 90s, the ice cream and confectionery market changed, and the sector was no longer what it once was: In other words, the introduction of semi-finished products, industrial ingredients for pastry-making and gelato-making, along with the labour’s commercialisation, profit maximisation, and excessive consumption changed the game’s rules.
The introduction of semi-finished products, industrial ingredients for pastry-making and gelato-making, along with the labour's commercialisation and excessive consumption changed the game's rules
Offering a genuine product was no longer enough.
The customers were looking for something else: They searched for intensively bright and gaudy coloured gelatos.
Consumers were looking for the variety and the quantity of flavours rather than quality and genuineness of products. Essentially, all the opposite of what Mokambo Bar had been offering up until that moment.
The opposite of what the Mokambo family had always tried to preserve: simplicity and tradition.
So it was in 1998, when the last chapter of Bar Mokambo came to an end. It was the 15th of December in 1998.
For what reason the artisan gelateria was reopened, bringing the ancient recipes back to life in the heart of Ruvo di Puglia?
The years go by, trends pass, and we witness slowly slowly a return of awareness in customers of the food’s quality. People realised that they have lost the good foods’ products of the past, so much so that the statements, which are heard around were the following:
Hence, a day we told ourselves:
We have the recipes, we have the know-how. Our family does not lack experience in the field. There is only one thing missing: the most important piece of the puzzle: going back to make what is for us the best artisan gelato in the world.
That decision would come shortly thereafter …
We therefore began looking for those flavours to which we were fond.
I visited artisan gelato parlours asking about the regular flavours: hazelnut, pistachio, chocolate, vanilla… and guess what?
The majority of the time, I ended up being disappointed by it.
No artisan gelato would even be minimally close to the flavours that were vividly anchored into my memory!
All the ice creams I tried seemed good to my palate, although they had nothing to do with what I was used to!
As a child, when you get used to the taste’s intensity, the scent and the authentic aroma of the raw ingredients, you can immediately tell if what you are eating is up to your expectations or whether there is something wrong with it.
For me the hazelnut flavour was the test bench. Rarely I have found anything that came close to what my father or uncle used to prepare.
The decision to make come alive the Mokambo Artisan Gelateria come alive was taken in October 2015.
We have told ourselves:
Let’s do it ourselves, again! Like back in the days! We have everything we need to do it well.
Many things have happened since then:
We began working in silence for the big reopening of Mokambo Artisan Gelateria
The days slowly passed by, between one job and another, “The Mokambo” was slowly coming back to life when all of a sudden, in March 2016, a post in a local Facebook group called “You’re from Ruvo if..” caught our attention.
There was an old photo of Bar Mokambo, and it had this type of comments below it:
The one above was the umpteenth “manifestation of affection” towards us.
We had to reopen immediately, bringing to the market the Authentic Artisan Gelato made as it used to be, faithfully respecting the recipe of 1840 handed down by uncle Luigi Marseglia to grandfather Vincenzo.
A recipe for transforming what nature offers into Mokambo's delicious artisan ice cream
Admittedly it took hard work, it’s true, but it is something memorable that deserves to be told.
And so, once the works were completed, after 18 years, in the last days of the hot July 2016, in Via Nello Rosselli 29, the Mokambo artisan Gelato parlour reopened its doors.
We don’t make a simple ice cream: that would be an understatement.
We follow a recipe and an ancient procedure to give the new generations the flavours and aromas of a bygone era.
We are the custodians of the recipe from 1840, and for this reason, Mokambo is "the Gelato from other Times."
The processing method, combined with the selection of the finest raw materials and the best natural ingredients, like a time machine, have brought back to life an ice cream difficult to find today. We are not the ones saying it.
This is confirmed by over 10.000 satisfied customers who have already tried the artisan gelato from Mokambo Gelateria and is also proven by over 1000 reviews on TripAdvisor, Google and Facebook (click here to read the reviews).
My sister Giuliana and I followed the footsteps of our grandfather Vincenzo by diving in the past and making people relive history and his recipes. That is the reason why…
We only make artisan gelato, not using any industrial semi-finished products, re-proposing the ancient Neapolitan pastry school recipes, which have been in our family for 120 years.
Our mission is making people taste the real authentic artisan gelato prepared according to the recipe from 1840, following an ancient working method.
Here’s some of the phases involved in creating our artisan gelato
Vittorio Sgarbi’s video testimonial
“If somebody would go to Ruvo and not stop by Mokambo, he would be an idiot!” – Vittorio Sgarbi
Mokambo gelateria on the media
The protagonist "behind the scenes"
Uncle Franco (who is now the uncle of all the Mokambo customers) deserves the most significant merit recognition: he was the engine that made this dream come true. The real deus ex machina.
His experience, combined with our will, has allowed us to reopen our Gelato parlour: a laboratory for artisan gelato, always open, in an unrestricted environment that is visible under the customers’ eyes, that in this way, they can admire the passion, the love and the commitment that we put into it when we make what, after all, is NOT a simple ice cream but rather …
The Gelato whose original recipe dated 1840 has been handed down for 4 generations and which today you can taste only at Mokambo Gelateria.
Anyone who comes to Mokambo will sooner or later become part of the Mokambo family, a family in which customers are not just simple gelato tasters, but they are invited to become real experts, thanks to our workshops and dedicated tasting sessions.
A pinch of culture before getting with the gelato
We want our guests to become conscious consumers: knowing how to distinguish a high-quality gelato from any ice cream made from powders or that is full of preservatives. Yet it is our greatest satisfaction.
Mokambo is now getting international recognition, by being mentioned in Vogue France, Forbes USA, Business Insider and the French-German ARTE channel. Alongside national channels and magazines such as Affari Italiani, Repubblica, Corriere della Sera, Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, Gambero Rosso, etcetera (find out what the media say about us).
We want to transmit the passion for delicious food, characteristic of the Italian culinary tradition to all generations.
That’s why we decided to offer our guests a complimentary tasting of all our exclusive gelato flavours.
We think this is the best way to convey what we have set ourselves with the reopening of the Mokambo Gelateria:
Creating memorable artisan gelato that deserves to be narrated.
Would you like to try our exclusive gelato flavours free of charge and ultimately discover the real taste of the authentic artisan gelato?
If you would like to experience the thrill of tasting the authentic artisan gelato made according to the traditional recipe from 1840, then please click on the button below, fill in the form, and request your free tasting today.